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Thursday, March 21, 2013

A jump-start on the garden, plus a recipe for cranberry-orange bread

I often feel that I am working in a rush against deadlines. There's the tax deadline, birthdays, holidays, guests' arrival, and now I'm trying to get the garden planted, rose bushes trimmed, trees and shrubs cut back and weeds pulled. While I feel pressured to get this all done, I also enjoy the excuse to be working in the fresh air.

The gardening deadline that gets priority with me is planting the produce garden. If I can get it done as early as the weather allows, we can enjoy fresh produce sooner, and have more of it.

As a help, I use row covers to give me an extra few weeks in spring. I can start seeds under these,

or, plant out seedlings.

The overnight lows can still be as low as 33 or 34 degrees F, this month, here. But with a cover, my plants survive, and seeds germinate sooner.

This week I started radish, beets, green onions, spinach and carrots, and transplanted broccoli and lettuce seedlings, all under these covers. I am trying to get at least one item planted per day. I should have all of my cool season veggies in the ground sometime next week.

Around the third week of April, I'll move these covers to bare spots for my heat-loving vegetables, like tomatoes, green peppers, summer squash, and eggplant. They'll act as mini-greenhouses to allow me to transplant seedlings into the ground two weeks before the usual recommended date, and keep the air right around these plants toasty.

This is what it takes in our climate, and my backyard, in particular, as it's surrounded by enormous firs, hemlocks and cedars -- great when we hit those all-time highs in the summer, we stay cool, but not ideal for growing many vegetables.

Sort of related to planting my garden, is the cranberry harvest from my yard, and one of my favorite recipes for using frozen cranberries. In the comments from Saturday's post, I had a request for my recipe for Cranberry-Orange Bread. This is the recipe I use. It's from  Jane Brody's Good Food Book. Jane Brody was a columnist for the New York Times for many, many years. Her food suggestions and recipes focus on healthier eating.

I like this recipe because it's low in fat and sugar (compared to other cranberry breads), and calls for part whole wheat flour. I do make a substitution or two here and there. The recipe calls for orange juice as the liquid. If I don't have any orange juice, I substitute homemade lemonade, using bottle lemon juice, sugar and water. But the nutritional benefits are greater if you use the orange juice. I also omit the nuts most of the time, as they're a no-no for my daughters' braces, and I'm often out of nuts, anyway. But again, nuts would add essential fats and protein, as well as a tasty crunch.

If you find that you overstocked fresh cranberries in the fall, and are looking for a delicious way to use some of them up, this is a recipe that my family really enjoys.

Cranberry-Orange Quick Bread

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 to 2/3 cup granulated sugar, to taste
1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 teaspoons grated orange peel
3/4 cup orange juice
1 egg
1  1/3 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries, coarsely chopped (I do mine in the food processor)
1/2 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts), optional

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the dry ingredients. Stir in the cranberries, orange zest and nuts.

In medium bowl beat together the egg, oil and orange juice. Stir the liquids into the dry ingredients, just until combined.

Spoon into a buttered loaf pan (approx. 9-inch by 5-inch). Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven, for 50 minutes to 1 hour (top will be firm, and toothpick inserted should come out clean).

Set the pan on a rack for 10 minutes to cool, then turn the bread out of the pan, and continue cooling.

The author recommends wrapping the cooled loaf in plastic and waiting a day before slicing. I say, if you're hungry, you'll enjoy this even more that same day! Although it's true, quick breads do slice better after a day of resting. But I can never wait that long!

I often bake a double batch and make two loaves, one to eat right away, and the other to freeze. This loaf freezes very well. My kids love this sliced and spread with cream cheese. (I would probably love that too, but sadly, can't have dairy.)

Hope you enjoy!


  1. I LOVE your garden - the layout, the raised beds, the shapes, the path ...... very English country garden.

    1. Hi Jessica,
      Thank you -- English country garden is what we're looking to replicate in our backyard. Bit by bit, it's starting to come together.

  2. Oh my goodness--is that your garden area? Gorgeous! Sadly, our back yard always looks better with snow on it ...

    Can you let me know your recipe substitution with the lemon juice? I avoid orange juice these days as it doesn't agree with me (and no one else likes it very well) but that would make a nice substitute.

    1. Hi Kris,
      There are parts of my yard that would be greatly improved with a good snowfall, too! But we work on a new bit with this every summer. This year, I have some brick work to do, and my husband will continue working on some stepping stone paths.

      When I make lemonade, whether to sub for any other citrus juice or for drinking, I follow this rule:
      1 part lemon juice
      1 scant part sugar
      7 parts water

      So, if all I need is a cup of lemonade, I'll just pour 2 tablespoons lemon juice into a measuring cup, add about 1 & 3/4 to 1 & 7/8 tablespoons sugar, then add water to the 1 cup mark. Depending on what I'm using it for, I'll make it more tart for some recipes, or more sweet, for things like popsicles.

  3. I never knew that quick breads were better the next day. I guess we've never waited that long to eat them to figure that out. I have the "Good Food Book" and never noticed this recipe. I'll have to check it out because there are some cranberries in the freezer that could be used. A year ago, I found a closeout on cranberry-orange bread mixes and I bought several for a very cheap price. However, they're all gone now. Time to make some from scratch.

    Also, I think one time you mentioned that you had a landscape designer help with a plan for your yard in the beginning. That was a great idea, because your garden area is beautiful.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      I think the quick bread thing is it slices better on the second day. But for the most part, the only time we even "get" a second day with quick breads is when I've baked 2 loaves! My mom used to wrap the loaves, and keep them a day, for luncheons and teas with her friends. that was just torture to see that loaf of tea bread sitting on the counter knowing I had to wait until the next day to even get any.

      Yes, the landscape designer was a huge help. She was the one who told us how to build the garden beds with concrete blocks (our veg garden area is on a slope). She gave us the general layout of that garden, plus the layout for our front lawn area, which we really love. Some of her ideas we couldn't implement, as they were too complicated for amateurs to install. But I learned soooo much about design from her.

      I'm not sure if we would have spent our own money at the time, on hiring this service, but my father had given us some money for Christmas that year, and suggested we hire a designer, as his gift to us.

  4. The comment by Kris made me laugh right out loud. Since we got ANOTHER 12 inches two days ago, our yard really looks "good". My problem is that I need an inside me and an outside me....full time.

    The quick bread recipe is one I will be trying soon.

    1. Hi Judy,
      Well, after all my work this week, yesterday was extremely blustery. It blew the cover off my newly planted broccoli seedlings. And then last night we had a very big hail storm (for us at least). I didn;t go out to check on the garden until the hail had stopped, but rain had turned to snow/rain mix. That one bed got covered with hail. I fixed the row cover, but I'm not sure all those seedlings will survive, maybe some did. We didn't get any accumulating snow all winter, then the first day of spring we get this hail storm, followed by snow and rain together. Oh, well!

    2. OK, Judy, you've got me beat! We've only had about 4 or 5 inches the past few days ... but I suspect that both of us just want to look outside and see sunny skies and growing plants. I love your inside me/outside me comment. Ain't it the truth!

      Lili, thanks for the lemonade recipe! Lemonade popsicles actually sound kinda good right now ... around here everyone seems to be having $1 latte sales this week so I confess I've treated myself a few times to a WARM beverage ...

    3. Kris, I didn't know if you wanted lemonade for a recipe (like a cup or less) or a larger amount, like in a pitcher for beverages. I make lemonade often in a 2 qt. container. Into the pitcher, I fill with lemon juice to 1 cup mark, add about 3/4 to 1 cup sugar, about half fill the container with water. And stir to dissolve. Then I add the rest of the water, filling to the 2 qt. mark.

      $1 lattes! Wow! I haven't seen anything like that around here. I glad you're enjoying a treat now and then. I did just make myself a latte at home, though. Coffee with vanilla soymilk. Doesn't have the whip cream, but it's still good!

  5. Lovely garden paths!

    We're having freeze warnings of all things for the next few nights. I'm still trying to convince hubby that at minimum we should do a few raised beds.

    1. Hi Shara,
      Thank you!
      I love raised beds. The soil is workable much earlier in the spring than in the parts of the garden where I'm planting at ground level. Our strawberry beds are built of cedar, and use these metal corner pieces that we ordered online that make assembly with your own wood very easy. My son, who has little building experience, was able to build most of our strawberry beds by himself. Each bed took about 2 hours to assemble and install. Very doable project for most gardeners.

      I think the online source was Plow and Hearth, if you're interested in seeing what the raised bed corner brackets are.

  6. We have some landscaping to do before I can put a garden in. Based on selling the other house and cleaning it out it may be a late or very small garden this year. Cheers!

    1. Hi Cheapchick,
      This is what I tell myself, "you do what you can and don't sweat the rest". You've had a very busy late winter and now into spring. There is only one you, and you can only do so much. And a late or small garden would be better than no garden. Good luck with the landscaping!

  7. That bread looks delicious, Lili! And I LOVE your garden, it is just beautiful. :) :) :)

    1. Thank you, Belinda!
      I'm looking forward to many warm days spent working in the garden. It's probably already warm where you are, right? Spring is such a wonderful and promising time of year. Have a good evening!

  8. Wow Lili!
    What a beautiful garden!! I am excited to see the blooms that come from this masterpiece! Bread recipe-oh well yummy!!!!

    1. Hi Jemma,
      Thank you! I'm just hoping for some warm spring days to get out into the garden again!
      Have a nice evening!

  9. Your garden is lovely Lili :) I'd love to see a picture of it in its glory in the middle of summer :)
    I'm going to plant some kale seeds very soon because the weather has finally cooled down here - I guess we have the same cool-weather growing season :)

    1. Hi Economies,
      Thank you! Today I'm not feeling so good about our garden. I woke up to 2 inches of snow everywhere. No snow all winter, and NOW it decides to snow! I'm most worried about one of our cherry trees. The blossoms were about to open, and this could do them in.

      Your kale should do well, now that it's cooler for you. Have you tried growing mustard greens? They also do better in the cool season. I find that they mature much faster (and give me fresh greens sooner) than kale. Good luck with you fall garden!

  10. I liked reading about all the things you plan to grow. You are very organised! I'm looking forward to seeing how it all develops over the summer months.

    Gillian x

    1. Hi Gillian,
      Thank you. I just can't wait for some warmer spring weather. We've had some teaser days, when I thought "oh, it's spring", only to be followed by some bitter cold. And I know that you've had the same there. Here's to hoping spring comes for all of us soon!

  11. hello lili,
    wow what a beautiful garden you have. it looks like a english it's to cold for outside gardening. but on my window will grows tagetes,tomatoes,paprika and eggplant etc.
    wish you a nice week,
    love regina


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