Child Friendly Gardens

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I love including my children in the gardens with me…

Follow the link below to my new post at The Detroit News, The Good Life for fun ideas!

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/thegoodlife/2013/06/26/child-friendly-gardens-bring-your-children-into-the-garden-to-make-lasting-memories/

Happy Day,
Jean

Cooking & Baking with Herbs, Herbs for Pets, Lovely Lavender and Yummy Lavender Recipes

Lavender is one of my favorite herbs.  This is a garden stone I had purchased at the farmers market that sets in it.

Lavender is one of my favorite herbs; although I don’t use it as a culinary herb even though you can, I am partial to it as a lovely hedge about my flower beds.  Evan loves lavender, he will often bring me a bouquet of the sprigs he has picked… so sweet. 

Cooking with Herbs is such a special treat… once you start using fresh herbs and taste the difference from the dried, it will be hard to enjoy them as much in the winter.  Fresh herbs are a culinary delight to the senses and add a flavor that is hard to beat. Many people skip herbs when baking, so here are some yummy ‘Herb Additions’ to your everyday meals along with some baked good recipe’s!
*Make your eggs Italian– add 1 tsp. each of minced fresh oregano, basil and thyme to about 8-10 large eggs before scrambling them. 
*Savory Pancakes; try adding 1 tsp. of fresh sage and 1 tbsp. each of chopped chives and Parmesan cheese to your pancake or crepe batter- roll up thin slices of ham and/or cheese in the finished products!
*Add tarragon with some root veggies by adding 1 tbsp. of minced tarragon to cups each of grated parsnips and grated carrots.  Quickly stir fry the mixture in 2 tbsp. of butter and 1 tbsp. olive oil.
*Spice up those burgers by adding 1 tbsp. each minced fresh chives and parsley to 1# ground beef, along with 1 egg and 1.2 tsp. each salt & pepper before forming into your patties.
*Home brewed Herb Tea is so special- try adding 2 tbsp. of chopped fresh herbs to 2 cups of boiling water; steep for 6-7 minutes; strain herbs and sweeten to your desired liking.
Try 3 cups raspberry leaves to 1 cup lemon balm for a special summer drink.

Lemon Basil Cookies
1/4 cup butter
1- 8oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. lemon rind, grated
1- box Lemon cake mix
1.4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1. Cream butter & cheese; add egg yolk and lemon juice until well blended.
2. Blend in dry cake mix one third at a time; last portion by hand; stir in coconut, nuts, lemon peel and basil.
3. Drop by teaspoons onto a greased cookie sheet.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until golden in color.

Basil Pound Cake
1/2 pound butter
2 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry basil, ground fine

1. Cream butter and sugar; beat eggs and blend with creamed mixture; stir in salt and flour beating well; add basil, blending well.
2. pour into a greased, small loaf pan; bake at 350 degrees fro 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Herbs for your best friends, Fido and Kitty! 
*For Fido, grow some fennel; dry the ferns; make a sachet and add in their doggy bed or in their favorite sleeping spot.
*For Kitty, grow a patch of Catnip! Although is it yummy for kitty, it is not for humans- so don’t get excited and make a tea.  Cats will go ‘hog’ wild over it though, so to keep kitty from eating it down to the roots, try putting a homemade box or dome made of chicken wire over the top of the Catnip; secure down to ground with ground staples.  As the catnip grows through the wire, kitty can have a treat without eating it to the ground.
Sorting Through Lavender~
There are dozens of varieties of Lavender as you can see looking through seed catalogs.  There are many shades of purples and even pinks; there are types that are good for edging and others for cutting to use in bouquets. I personally prefer Grosso Lavender for my bouquets.  I like Hidcote for my borders.  True Lavender is not as hardy and I have lost several over the years if not mulched well in the fall and if we had an extremely cold, hard winter.  There are both tender and hardy perennials, so be sure when you purchase your plants or seeds you determine your Hardiness Zone and the plants/seeds. 
*Lavender does well if protected from extreme cold & freezing and harsh winds.  It does best in Zone 5 and above.
*Lavender likes a well drained alkaline soil and full sun.
*Lavender will remain much nicer with regular pruning, otherwise it has a tendency to get a bit leggy depending on your variety.  I never trim back my Hidcote or Grosso.  Hidcote sprawls beautifully over my rock borders while Grosso makes a perfect mound with long, upright bloom spikes just perfect for cutting.
*To harvest it for drying, wait till the buds just open, or you can wait until they’re in full bloom; dry stems in bundles about 1 1/2 inch in diameter, hanging upside down in a cool, airy spot.
*Use it in the laundry~ take a handful of blossoms, securely tie in a linen handkerchief and toss it in the dryer with your clothes- no more ‘fake’ lavender smelling clothes!
*Sprinkle dried lavender stems into the fireplace; as they burn, they’ll delicately scent the air.
   
Lavender isn’t just for sniffing and bouquets; try these special sweet treats and see how tasty this lovely herb can be!

Lavender Sugar
In a food processor finely chop 2 Tbsp. dried lavender flowers, stems discarded.
Add 1 cup of sugar; blend.
Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
Sprinkle on top of ice cream, use in tea, add to sugar cookies or sprinkle on vanilla yogurt.

Summer Melons with Lavender Syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white grape juice concentrate
2 Tbsp. orange juice
1/4 cup lavender flowers, fresh or dried
4 cups of cubed melons: watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew

1. Bring water, sugar, juice concentrate and juice to a boil.
2. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring until sugar is completely dissolved.
3. Add flower blossoms; cover and steep for 1 hour.
4. Strain flowers.
To serve, pour cooled syrup over cut melon cubes; toss lightly to coat; serve immediately.

Lavender Cookies
3 1/2 Tbsp. dried Lavender
1 cup butter
3 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
3 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1. Grind lavender and sugar into a powder in food processor; cream in butter, add sugar and lavender then the beaten eggs; add vanilla.
2. Sift the soda & baking powder into one cup of the flour; add to sugar mixture.
3. Alternate remaining flour with mild to make a soft dough.
4. Use a cookie scoop to form cookies; drop on ungreased cookie sheet; bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Happy Day,
Jean

Children’s Gardens & more themes, Butterfly Kisses & a super Yummy Apple ‘Breakfast’ Pie!

Each Spring my children get pretty enthusiastic about planting ‘their’ own garden plots.  Ryan, my soon to be 10year old is always right there ready to get going.  Last year he gathered several old bricks he discovered and made small ‘raised’ beds.  He dug around to loosen the dirt and proceeded to plant his tomato plants along side basil, nasturtiums & marigolds.  He has learned the art of Companion Planting like a true gardener!  Taylor & Kyle are usually in competition as to who’s garden shall yield the greatest bounty and there-by collect the most funds from dad ‘n’ mom! The problem most often is that the thrill doesn’t always last through till the harvest~ before the harvest is weeding & tending~ not such glamorous tasks as the planting!  But they are learning and I believe will someday have beautiful flower & veggie gardens for me to walk through!

But in the meantime here are a few more Garden Themes to dream about & work toward!
The first is a lovely *Children’s Garden~  Sunflower Houses~  A good friend of mine has a really neat book called  Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots by Sharon Lovejoy.  It is a book all about different children’s garden theme’s.  One that struck us most was a sunflower house. It is so fun & incredibly simple~ first find the perfect spot, a sunny corner in the far back of your veggie garden works well~ or in a flower bed if you have room~ figure about a 6’x6′ area.  You will need the Giant Grey Stripe or Mammoth Sunflower’s or even better a combo of both.  Using a stick for a marker, draw out the area in the dirt, any shape you want will do~ round, diamond, square, whatever~ then plant the seeds according to package directions.  Be sure to leave enough of an opening for an entrance.  Once the seeds start to sprout reseed where any didn’t germinate so you have a complete ‘wall’.  After your sunflowers are about six inches high plant Morning Glory seeds at the base of some of the sunflowers~ about every six would be good.  To make a roof over your hide away, take twine and go around the tops of the sunflowers to make criss~cross sections for the morning glories to climb over.  Once your sunflowers and morning glories are full grown it will be the perfect spot for picnics, story time or playing house.  Your children will love it!
other stuff for the Children to plant…. Children love to plant and if you give them something fun to grow it can even be more special! Let them plant some decorative gourds.  There are more varieties than you can shake a stick at including Swan, Bottle, Snake, Apple and even a Dinosaur Gourd.  Let them page the seed catalogs with you and have them pick what interests them.  There are books that teach the art of Gourdology which can be found at your local library.  The garden project can at harvest time become a craft project!  

Are you a crafty type of person?  Why not try growing your own Wreath Garden.  With the cost of materials these days, a package of seeds will go a long way in the savings department. Try growing these easy plants and who knows you might even be able to start a little business with your craft!
*Flowers that work well for Wreath’s include~ boxwood, sweet annie, yarrow, bay, statice, artemisias and gomphrena. 

*Ditch Garden~
Do you have a ditch in front or alongside your home that just screams ‘do something with me’? It is always an eye soar and you just don’t really have the time to tend another garden? You want something but would like a maintainence free space that looks good without a lot of effort? I did, so last year I attacked the ditch that runs along the road in the front of our yard. My ditch is often fairly wet so my choice was a day lily patch. Here are two very quick & simple solutions if you have a similar dilemma. First & foremost determine how often and to what degree the area is wet.  This will determine if you do a Wild Flower or Day Lily Garden.  Next, if tilling is a possibility rotor~till up the section to be seeded/planted.  If the area is not tillable due to moisture you will need to do a Day Lily garden.  If this is the solution, dig holes about every two feet and plant a clump of day lilies.  They can handle the early spring moisture and tolerate the dry & hot summer days that hit Michigan. If the area is not overly moist and tilling is an option,  simply scatter Wild Flower seeds in it. After a couple years you will have a breathtaking, car slowing garden that will never be an eye soar again.  Which ever you decide will best fit your space, be sure to check planting directions/requirements before you put all the work into it.  

What are Butterfly Kisses you ask? These have been shared in my gardens for many years by me & all my children.  They are the sweetest way to give that little person in your life a ‘special’ kiss & I love you.  So here are step by step instructions for those who are interested!
*First, find one or more of your favorite children.
*Next, stand them close to you and get down to their level~ face to face!
*Getting right up close in their face, put your eye up against their eye and blink as quickly as you can!  Be sure to tell the child to do the same!  The child will of course giggle and ask for tons more and of course you will gladly oblige!
That’s a Butterfly Kiss, and of course they are most fun in a garden!

Who says Apple Pie is just for desert?  This yummy Apple Pie will surprise the ones you love around the table, give it a try!

Apple ‘Breakfast’ Pie

1 beaten Egg, from Garden Gate
1/4 cup oil
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cup Pancake Mix from Taylor’s Bake Shoppe
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. Vanilla Sugar
2 Granny Smith apples cored & wedged
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
2 Tbsp. butter
Add about 1/2 cup nuts is you would like!
Top it with some Whipped Cream or Ice Cream~ Yummy!

1.  Beat the egg, oil & milk together and then add Pancake mix, 1/2 cup of sugar and nuts if using.  Beat until smooth, but don’t over beat.
2. Pour into a greased 10″ pie plate. 
3. Arrange the apples evenly over batter.  Combine the 2 Tbsp. of sugar with cinnamon & nutmeg; sprinkle over the apples.  Dot with butter.
4.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 30- 35 minutes or until apples when poked feel tender.  Serve warm with your choice of topping.

Happy Day,
Jean