An Unusual Curb Appeal

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I was popping into a grocery store when an unusual planting caught my eye. Usually stores plant flowers, bushes, or trees to beautify their landscape, but this was different.

Do you recognize these plants? It’s a very interesting choice for a grocery store.

How about a closer look?

If you guessed tomato, you’re correct. I didn’t see any ripe fruit, or even any decent sized green tomatoes, but that didn’t surprise me.

It’s still pretty hot here, and not many varieties of tomatoes will set fruit at these temps.

I do have to say that I was impressed by how good these plants look. 

Mine have usually succumbed to mildew, blight, or some other ailment by now.

In about a month or so, they should be overrun by tomatoes.

Anybody else in Florida have tomato plants that look this good?

My front flower planting has filled in nicely, so I’ll share some of those hardy souls with you soon.

It’s almost time for fall plantings, and I am looking forward to that!

Ever feel like a vase of wilted flowers?

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I’ve been pretty sick lately.

The 103.6 F fever kind of sick.

It’s no fun waking up so hot you’re panting as you breathe. That’s legit fever right there.

I had energy for sleeping and sipping water, that’s about it.

Amoxicillin took a while to kick in, but I was so grateful my husband encouraged me to go get seen.

You know you must not be feeling well when you’re the second name on the sign in sheet.

I’d say I’m about at 70%, which is a huge improvement over this time last week! 

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tackle the looming pile of ironing, but for now it can wait. 

After all, it has waited this long, what’s a little longer?🙂

Bright Spots in the August Garden

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Bright Spots in the August Garden

I’m planning to start over in the fall, but for now I’m going to emphasize the positive.

Like these peppy little flowers. These little black eyed Susans are great. I was expecting them to be much bigger, but they are so sweet.

Aren’t these the cutest little tomatoes you’ve seen? I’m going to save seeds and plant more. If I start seeds this month, they should be ready for the fall garden.

I’m still picking muscadine grapes from my backyard. They’re growing wild up some trees, and I have been enjoying them fresh.

Picked this beauty this morning. I saw a yummy recipe with eggplant, tomatoes, and cheeses that I may try.

I usually dice eggplant, sauté it with garlic, then add it to a veggie scramble; but I may branch out this time. 

What’s going on in your garden? Any plans for a fall garden?

How to Decorate a Buttercream Flower Cake with Russian Piping Tips

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If you’ve been following my blog recently,  you know I recently got a very nice set of Russian piping tips. In my previous post, I shared some advice for using them, but here I’ll break down decorating that cake and tell you about the colors.

I decided to use shades of coral for this cake; I thought it would look nice against the brown mocha frosting.

I did a graduation cake  with coral peonies recently, and I loved the coral against the mocha.

I started with a bit of No-Taste Red and Golden Yellow and made the lightest colored flowers first, using a tulip tip.

Russian Piping tip

Then I darkened it a bit with more colors, and used the rose tip.

Can you tell I have an aversion to making lots of dishes? I just added more color and gave it a whirl in the mixer.🙂

Russian Piping tip

Not sure what to call this last tip. Maybe another tulip? It makes pretty flowers though!

How to decorate a cake with Russian piping tips

A Wilton tip #352  with some Moss Green color finished out the design.

Those leaves are such a wonderful finishing touch! Love them!

Do you have any Russian piping tips yet? If you like to decorate cakes with flowers, they will totally change how you decorate a cake.

If you’re new to the Russian piping tips, be sure to check out my 5 tips for using them!

What do you think of the cake? Any more color scheme ideas for chocolate or mocha frosting? Maybe I should try white and pale green next time? Tell me what you think, I’d love to hear your ideas!

5 Pointers For Using Russian Piping Tips 

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5 Pointers For Using Russian Piping Tips 

So my husband surprised me by ordering a mega set of the Russian piping tips. I was so excited!

It even came with some of the Russian ball tips, which make ruffled cupcake tops easily. It also came with some basic tips, only in a larger size. The really big petal tips are fun too.

What was of most interest to me was the all in one flower tips. With just one tip, you can make a flower quickly, without a flower nail, without changing tips!

Here’s my 5 tips for using these great decorating tools.

1. Make plenty of frosting; the tips are huge! See how big they are compared to a typical Wilson tip. I used a large Ateco coupler for them.

Size of Russian piping tip

2. Make your frosting really stiff so the petals will hold their shape. I used a classic buttercream. 

3. Don’t be afraid to pack the flowers closely together. The smaller you make the spaces between the flowers, the better it will look at the end. 

4. When you start squeezing the frosting out, be sure the frosting is anchored to the cake before you really start squeezing out the flower and pulling up. Stop squeezing when it’s as tall as you want, and carefully lift the tip straight up off the flower.

5. Adding leaves at the end really pulls it all together. I love a Wilton tip #352 for leaves. I used Wilton’s Moss Green color for the cake above because I think it looks more natural.

How to use Russian Piping tips

I’ll be posting how I decorated this cake soon- so if you want or know what tips I used and what I mixed to get those shades, check back tomorrow!

Remember, you can like Coffee to Compost on Facebook or subscribe to me via email too.🙂

Do you have these tips yet? What do you think of them?

Foraging for Muscadine Grapes in My Backyard

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If you have grape vines near you, it’s time to check them!

Foraging for Muscadine Grapes

I just had some of the sweetest grapes that I have ever tasted.

I took a colander and collected all these yummy fruits.🙂

Maybe I’ll make some jam with the next batch, but I think these will be consumed quickly!

I had to zoom in to get a shot of all these grapes far above my head. Any suggestions for how to get them? Besides borrowing a ladder? 

So near, and yet so far. 

The taste of a sun-warmed perfectly ripe muscadine grapes is marvelous! Let me know if you find some!

So I Drank a Shrub Today

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It was scratchy. And really, really, really fibrous. 

Kidding. Do you know what a shrub is? A blueberry shrub drink, specifically? 

I had never heard of such a thing until I was looking though the book, PutEm Up! Fruit.

My blueberry shrub started out with blueberry vinegar.

I made my blueberry vinegar with delicious late season berries from Touchablue Farm.

The first time I tried it I used 3 tablespoons of vinegar and added about a teaspoon of sugar. 

The second time, I filled a pint jar with ice cubes, 2 tablespoons of blueberry vinegar, and poured club soda over the top. It seemed better that way, or maybe I just knew what to expect.🙂

If you’re expecting something similar to blueberry soda you’ll be disappointed. 

I know I was. The vinegar flavor is pretty strong.

Reminded me of my high school days when I drank apple cider vinegar to try to lose weight. I remember holding my nose and gulping down tablespoons of the stuff.

Is it as good as an iced coffee? No, but not much can beat that.

These might be kinda good for you.

Better than soda, anyway.

Any suggestions for how to use up my remaining 20 ounces of blueberry vinegar?

Please give me some yummy ideas, otherwise I’m going to  feel obligated to keep chugging pints of shrubs.

Maybe I’ll learn to like them.🙂

Hardy Souls Can Still Garden in July

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Florida summer gardening is intense. You have to be out early in the morning or late in the evening to escape some of the heat. Afternoon showers can help cool the air a bit, but my summer gardening is quite small this year.

The “hardy souls” of the title doesn’t really apply to me this season. There are a few bright spots, though.

Black eyed Susans are a bright spot of color- mine need to be deadheaded.

Pink zinnia

The zinnias are lovely.

Eggplants take the heat with glee.

Isn’t that one pretty? ‘Rosa Bianca’ is such a elegant variety.

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato

I planted some Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes, and the first ones are ripening. Their flavor is amazing- a really rich tomato flavor.

Cherry tomatoes can go through the summer better than beefsteak or Roma tomatoes, or at least that has been the case for me.

Malabar spinach pictureMalabar spinach is new to me this year. I’m waiting for it to really grow; it’s supposed to do well in summer.

Mint is reaching out for the sunshine. I like it in Mint Iced Tea.

Compost pile with flowers

Summer is a great time to compost. Grass clippings are wonderful for heating up your compost pile and helping you stock up for a fall garden.

I really have not done as much in the garden as I did last year. My okra was a bust.

I’ve been canning though, and figs will hopefully be my next project. 

I’ve been doing a little cake decorating too, and hope to share some advice for using Russian icing tips soon. 

How’s your garden? Growing anything new?

Layered Peach Melba Jam

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Layered Peach Melba Jam

I love the ease and flavor of homemade jam. Peaches are in season now, and I scored an incredible deal for 75 lbs of peaches. I have canned some slices, canned peach jam, frozen peach slices, but my latest peach project has been a layered peach-raspberry jam, or peach melba jam.

The recipe I saw in the Ball Book calls for them to be combined, but I decided to play with the recipe a bit, split the two jams, and see what happened. That’s pretty much what I do with most recipes.

“Oh, this calls for chicken and sesame oil and chili powder…I think I’ll substitute pork, add some sesame seeds and sprinkle in some Cajun seasoning.”

Anybody else use perfectly nice recipes as a springboard for what you want to make?

This layered version is a bit involved, but the visual effect is worth it. Well, I think so anyway. It is a bit time consuming, I have to warn you.

 

You will need:

8 cups peeled chopped peaches

1 cup raspberries

4 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 box lower sugar pectin, divided

Yield:approximately 9 half pints (6 layered peach melba jams and 3 peach jams)

 

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Start by prepping the fruit. Peeling the peaches is the most time-consuming part of the whole process.

Wash the jars and put in the hot canner.

I chose to make the raspberry jam first because I though it would look better that way and I figured it would be denser and more likely to stay in a layer at the bottom.

Crush the raspberries or give them a quick whirl in a food processor. Measure 1/2 cup of sugar for the raspberry jam. Whisk 1 tablespoon of the pectin and 2 tablespoons of the sugar together, then into the raspberries. Heat to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, then add the rest of the reserved 1/2 cup. Heat to a boil again, stirring constantly, then boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and carefully put 1/4 cup of the raspberry jam into each of 6 jars.

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You could of course make the layers thinner and put some in all 9 jars. Totally up to you.

Now it’s time to make the peach jam. Whisk the remaining pectin into 1/4 cup of the remaining sugar, then heat the peaches and the sugar/pectin mixture to a rolling boil. Add the rest of the sugar and heat to boiling again, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute, then turn off heat and remove pot from heat.

I like to live dangerously, so I just used what was left in the packet of pectin, rather than a whole other packet, which was risky.

It worked for me, and the jam set nicely, but you may want to use a whole packet.

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Carefully ladle the peach jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

Top with warmed lids and screw on rings gently.

Process half pints for 10 minutes.

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Peach Melba Jam Recipe

I love the look of a layered jam! I’m wondering if I should have put the raspberry on top, but it’s too late now. Maybe if I make another layered jam I’ll put the darker jam on top.

Blueberry and peach would be another pretty combination, don’t you think? I’ve combined them in a jam before, but it might be pretty to separate them.

Have you made a layered jam? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Summer is such a busy time in the kitchen. I’ve been working with blueberries, peaches, and figs are next!

 

Touchablue Berry Farm: U-Pick Blueberries $1/lb

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If you do much produce shopping at all, you know that $1/lb. for fresh blueberries is a great price.

I had a wonderful experience at Touchablue Berry Farm, and I have 3 tips for you if you decide to go too!

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Usually the areas nearest the entrance are picked over really well. We showed up in the evening, saw the other vehicles, and planned to go into the rows a bit, but got caught almost immediately by the flush of berries. So many berries!!!

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The farm provides the containers lined with bags for picking. There are various sizes of buckets outfitted with ropes to hang around your neck, leaving both hands free for picking. The large black buckets hold about 8 lbs of berries, which get a bit heavy toward the end. The smaller black buckets hold about 3 lbs.

This picking arrangement was different than what I had used at Blue Basket Farms. It’s interesting seeing the different ways to hold blueberries while picking.🙂

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We ended up with 20 pounds of blueberries!! I made some blueberry jam the next morning. Can’t get much fresher than that-blueberries canned less than 24 hours after picking!

berry picking at Touchablue Berry Farm

Here’s me after about 1.5 hours of picking. Note the hat. I’ve pretty much gotten my face back after my fluorouracil cream saga, but my hat is a common addition to my outfits and sunscreen is a common part of my getting ready routine.

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3 Blueberry Picking Tips

  1. Plan for an evening picking session. We arrived around 6:30 pm, and that meant that shadows were lengthening and it was getting cooler, but we still had plenty of time to get lots of berries.
  2. If you want to fill a large bucket, I recommend you to fill a smaller bucket and transfer it to a larger. A 8 lb bucket around your neck gets a bit heavy after a while.
  3. Bring a hat, there’s not much shade until about 7:30 pm unless you hide behind a bush.🙂

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    Touchablue Berry Farm Map

We had a wonderful time picking. They have a nice roofed station set up for weighing the produce (it’s on the honor system), sink for washing your hands, paper cones for water, and a picnic table, and even a portapotty.🙂

It’s a great setup and a wonderful place for a family evening. They also have long rows of muscadine grapes, which will also be $1/ lb when they’re in season. Maybe I’ll try making some grape jelly this year. Hard to beat that price!

You can like them on Facebook to see what others are saying and hopefully they will update when grapes are ready.

June can be tough for being outside, but there are still things to do and even crops to plant. Look for a post on what you can do in the June garden soon!