Saturday, October 25, 2008

Maple Chiffon Cake

In early October, there is a celebration in honor of St. Francis. It is the Blessing of the Animals. This statue of Francis stands in front of St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church, a church I served as pastor in Tucson.

Francis wrote an ode to God’s living things, known now as Canticle of the Creatures. “All praise to you, Oh Lord, for all these brother and sister creatures.”

Waiting for his “blessing” is my wonderful cat, Kaimana. He loves being outside, but he still comes to wait on the front deck for his daily loving from me. I think he's more attracted by the idea of getting fed. He makes a great Halloween cat, don’t you think?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about memories of having maple chiffon cake on my birthday. Is it any wonder that maple chiffon cake has been on my mind ever since then? It is definitely a dessert for the autumn season, so I decided to make one.

I no longer have my mother’s recipe, so I went to Google. The recipes were almost all alike, and remembering how hers tasted, I came up with a recipe that might work. Not only that, but I have way too many eggs now that the girls are producing regularly. I usually give most of them away, but this recipe calls for seven eggs! Hooray!

Here are the seven I used for this cake – two blue, two pink, and three brown. All the girls contributed to this project.

Maple Chiffon Cake Recipe
Stir together:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Make a well and add (in order):
½ cup salad oil
7 egg yolks
¾ cup cold water
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
Stir until smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, beat 7 egg whites with ½ teaspoon cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.

Gradually pour egg yolk mixture over egg whites and fold carefully until just mixed. Pour into a 10-inch angel food baking pan and bake for 1 hour at 350 F.

This picture was taken through the glass door of my oven 10 minutes after I put it in the oven. I didn’t have a 10” angel pan, so I tried to get by with a 9 ½” bundt pan.

I don’t think Mother put any sort of icing or glaze on top, but here is one you can use if you want to get fancy.

Heat 1/3 cup butter over medium heat until brown.
Cool slightly.
Blend in 2 cup powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon maple flavoring
Stir in hot water, 1 tablespoon at a time (uses about 2-4 tablespoons)
Spread over cake and drizzle some down the sides.

The non-stick pan wasn’t really non-stick, so you can see where part of the top came off when I took it out of the pan. Maybe I’ll put a glaze over it after all to hide the holes. Other than that, it didn’t turn out too badly. It smells the way it should.

To complete the picture I gave you about a birthday picnic in the woods of Southern Illinois, I really should have made some ham salad sandwiches. Since my brother gave me a food grinder for my birthday last year (or was it for Christmas? Oh dear!!), I can grind up some left-over ham, add sweet pickle relish, mayonnaise, and a dash of mustard for “kick”. Mix it all up and slather onto nice homemade whole wheat bread with lettuce and tomato. There you have the makings of an autumn picnic.

The only thing I’m missing to round out my picture of a true mid-west autumn would be a few pots of chrysanthemums. I’ll go look for those this week, too. Since I don’t have mums handy, here is a little table arrangement I’ve put together for my own amusement.

Now I need to go out and rake up some fallen ohia leaves, shuffle through them and throw down an old tablecloth to have my picnic. Care to join me?

Until next time, Lava Lily says “Keep making compost!”

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Color Yellow

I have never liked the color yellow very much. I avoid wearing it, have never painted a kitchen a bright yellow, and I’ve never deliberately planted yellow flowers. There is a fascinating article online about the meaning of yellow. I suppose I’ve always looked at the negative meanings rather than the positive ones.

Lately, a lot of yellow seems to have started coming into my life. I thought about this week’s blog as I was driving down the road, and the yellow stripes in the middle of the road caught my eye. Of course, it’s eye-catching, which is why some road signs and markers are in bright yellow.

I started looking at other bits of yellow in my life. In fact, I have to admit that one of the reasons I was attracted to the home I have is the mass of yellow poppies in bloom around the acre.

The first cuttings I put in were yellow plumeria. Some were brighter yellow than others. These are for the traditional plumeria leis used in hula dancing.

Other of my plumeria had a delicate hint of yellow in the center.

The state flower of Hawai’i is the yellow hibiscus or maʻo hau hele.

Such a beautiful flower!

A friend has this pale yellow orchid growing in his back yard. It is one of the few fragrant orchid plants.

Carole and Heather Baker even have a frolicking yellow cat in their garden.

My daughter, Inga, has included yellow plants in her small garden. She writes that Boise has already had their first snow and she is busy getting her yard ready for winter. These beautiful flowers are temporarily gone. The opening picture shows her autumn arrangement that certainly includes yellow!

Apparently, she’s not as afraid of yellow as her mother. I love this painted container!

I began to look at all the other yellow items in my life. My “girls” give me beautiful yellow yolks in their eggs.

And garden vegetables that I love are often yellow.

I didn’t grow this one, but I love eating spaghetti squash. I may try to plant one someday.

When I went to the Seed Exchange in June, the offering of fruits, flowers, and vegetables included many yellow items.

This incredibly beautiful yellow hibiscus with a purple center caught my eye when walking down Ali`i Drive one morning.

In my garden now I have this lovely yellow calendula (Calendula officianalis) given to me by my masseuse. Not only is it very pretty in my patio area, but the dried petals can add a rich saffron-like color to my food. I read that it isn’t especially flavorful, but can be sprinkled over a salad, chicken or fish to add that little spot of color. The March 2008 issue of The Herb Companion has a wonderful article about calendula, complete with recipes. You can read it here. Calendula was named 2008 Herb of the Year by the International Herb Association.

One last yellow beauty grows in Kihei on Maui, near Yee's Mango Orchard.

One of the major events here in Hawai`i is the sunset. People pull over to the side of the road in their cars, or sit along the top of stone walls to watch, hoping to see the “green flash.” I saw it many times as I did my own watching from my deck on Ali’i Drive. This picture doesn’t show the green flash, but it does give another view of yellow! If you look closely, you’ll see Captain Bean’s Dinner Cruise going by. I’ve been told that it no longer runs.

It looks like I’m not as opposed to yellow as I first thought. But I still don’t plan on wearing much of it! I'll enjoy it in the natural world.

Aloha until next time!

Lava Lily says “Keep making compost!”

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Garden Stroll

Kaimana wanted to join me on a garden stroll today. He came up just as I finished watering the Chard Charlolette (red chard) seeds I planted a few days ago. You’ll get to see them as they grow.

As I was winding up the garden hose, I noticed a few bits of color in my patio area. One of the buds on my gardenia had opened up. Several others will be opening up before long, I’m sure.

Near the patio entrance the baby bell peppers are growing strong, and the plant is covered with tiny buds and microscopic peppers.

On the back steps, there is a dwarf ornamental pineapple (Ananas nana) that I’ve been pampering. After a year of settling into a new pot, it is finally sending out new growth. Eventually it will send out miniature pineapples that I have been told are not edible. In some parts of the world, they are considered collector’s items. Almost all gardeners I know here have at least one in their yard.

Another project that is fun for both children and adults is to grow your own edible pineapples (Ananas comosus). This is another plant that is in almost all local gardens. The way to do this is to twist off the top of a fresh pineapple, set it in a glass of water and let it grow roots. Be sure to wear a heavy garden glove or oven mitt! Some of the websites say to cut off the crown of the pineapple, but I find that twisting it out is the best way.

I’ve started many this way and the picture above shows my latest. It’s one a friend gave me in exchange for some of my eggs. I think it is a Kona Sugarloaf, a small white pineapple that is incredibly sweet and sugary. (I also have an avocado seed growing roots nearby, but it’s not nearly as pretty right now!)

It may take several months for roots to form. After the roots are fairly well on their way, you can plant it into soil and watch it grow. Depending on where you live, you should get another edible pineapple within two years. It likes full sun, can withstand dry conditions, and likes a moderate climate.

For some, it may be simply a beautiful and unusual house plant; for others living in more tropical areas, it can be put right out into your garden. In the next season, other baby pineapple plants will form around where mama pineapple had been.

When my brother first visited me in Hawai`i, I gave him some pieces of white pineapple of one freshly picked from the garden. He said it tasted almost like a sweet alcoholic drink. I don’t think he ever tasted anything quite like it.

A word of warning: If you live on the mainland, most of the fresh pineapples you get are not as sweet as ours fresh from the field. A few years back, I was at a conference in Arizona. There was a fresh fruit platter on the table and I eagerly grabbed a few pieces of fresh pineapple. As I screwed up my face from the sour taste, someone behind me said, "Spoiled, are we?”

YES! I’m definitely spoiled!

Aloha, and Lava Lily says “Keep making compost!”

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hawai`i October Scene

Magazines are full of beautiful pictures showing colored leaves of autumn, featuring spicy pumpkin recipes, and people bundled up in flannel shirts. I become a little envious because I remember those days so well.

I experienced true autumn in Southern Illinois where I spent the first eighteen years of my life. Since my birthday came at the end of September, we had one family tradition to celebrate it. Mother would make a maple chiffon cake and whip up some ham salad sandwiches for us to take on a picnic in the woods near our town.

We would trudge through crunchy autumn leaves into a forested area to spread out an old tablecloth under the trees. It seems like I recall this happening every year. But maybe it really only happened once. Funny thing, memories!

So here I am, reminiscing about those crisp fall days, even though I really do prefer my year-round moderate Hawai`ian climate now.

This feels like a good time to bring you up to date on where some of my own plants are in their process of growing.

The picture that opens up this post shows a birthday gift from a special friend. I couldn’t have asked for anything better!! It’s just right for me to handle and get over some of the lava.

I’ll start out with my protea. They were badly damaged during the heaviest episode of sulfur dioxide. I was going to pull them up and toss them, but just this morning I discovered a new shoot coming out of one of the stalks. It’s only a tiny sprig of green, but I’m happy to see it. It will be interesting to see just what develops. You can see the “burn” from the SO2.

Here’s another example of the type of damage my protea suffered. One banksia seemed to do well.

This one doesn’t look healthy at all.

The coconut palm is growing slowly. Between the wind and the sulfur dioxide damage, I’m surprised it is surviving. But strong fronds are showing.

Here is one last pink blossom on my plumeria. She’s hanging on for dear life! You can also see some sulfur dioxide damage on these leaves, but overall, the plumeria didn’t suffer as much as other plants.

In June, I showed my tiny lilikoi seedlings. Here they are three months later, reaching out for the fishing line to climb up the side of the shed. I need to add more line to give them support as they grow.

The purple lilikoi is showing growth, too. It’s well over my head, but there are no blooms yet.

Recently, I planted some Hawai`ian pepper seeds that I’d picked up at the Seed Exchange in June. Out of the ones I planted, this lone plant has finally sprouted. I think I should have started them in a different way. I had planted them directly into a raised bed.

I’ve been given a number of new plants recently and they are showing signs of new growth. Here is one of the calendula plants that has already started to multiply. Perhaps you can see the flower buds on the right. The fallen ohia leaves help to give a little feeling of autumn.

I was given these Japanese iris just about the same time I planted the calendula. They are looking fairly good. You can see a fading plumeria in the back. Plumeria loses leaves over the winter in my piece of Hawai`i, but by spring they will be back in full bloom.

There are other plants I’ve picked up from friends in the past few weeks. All of them seem to be surviving. Here are a couple of them from two different gardens. The larger one is a geranium and it’s doing nicely. The tiny plant struggling behind the geranium is from a plant in Carole Baker’s yard. I think it’s the dauphine violet, but I’m not quite sure. When it’s bigger, I’ll check with her.

Another plant I was given is this Summer Poinsettia (Amaranthus tricolor Perfecta). It’s not to be confused with our regular Christmas Poinsettia (Euphorbia Pulcherrima), which I will be showing pictures of nearer to Christmas time.

This small cutting of the native yellow hibiscus is taking off nicely! The maʻo hau hele is the state flower of Hawaiʻi.

I will soon be putting this cute little succulent in a place where it can spread out. It is known as a “panda plant,” or Kalanchoe tomentosa. This plant is also called panda-bear plant, or pussy-ears plant.

Even as our “summer” comes to an end, there are several beautiful orchids opening up for me. This is one of my favorites.

A few others are also blooming and peeking through.

A few weeks ago, I bought a beautiful fuchsia plant to hang in my entryway. I think the reason it didn’t cost so much was because it had started to get very leggy. I’ve trimmed it back to encourage more fullness, but there was one solitary blossom giving me a last bit of color.

Until next week, Lava Lily says “Keep making compost!”

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