Friday, February 27, 2015

Snow today, gone tomorrow

It was here one day and gone the next! That is okay - it was beautiful while it lasted. A reader was telling me that she had not seen her ground for two weeks because of snow. I know that it can get old. It was strange though seeing everything covered in white yesterday morning and all gone by the afternoon.

I said in the previous post that I did not want to get out in it. I changed my mind and did venture out briefly to take more photos. It was a very sunny morning and so beautiful but very cold. The snow was melting fast and falling from the trees in heavy thuds. From inside the house, it sounded like gunshots. 

Believe it or not, next week we are supposed to have temperatures in the 70s! Typical weather for the south.

Now that snow is out of our system (that doesn't mean we can get more), I am ready for spring and thoughts are returning to gardening. I hope to get some vegetable seeds planted this weekend. 

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snow Day

After weeks of near hits and misses, we finally got our snow day. And it was a significant one. We got about 3 inches but areas to the south of us got up to 10 inches. It arrived late in the day and continued through the early evening. It is beautiful. However, I guess I am just getting old but I had no desire to get out in it. In fact, all of these photos were taken from the windows inside the house! 

The sun is out this morning and it is falling off the trees. I suspect it will be gone by this afternoon. I still do not want to get out in it. These photos will have to suffice!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Monday, February 16, 2015

Icy Jewels

We missed the snow this week - earlier forecasters were saying that we could get as much as 2-5 inches. However, as it often happens, the snow line went much farther north so we missed out. We are getting cold rain and sleet and everything is wet. It is going to get very cold tonight and black ice will be a problem in the morning. There is also concern about the ice on trees. I would much have preferred the snow!

I did get a change to get a few shots of the beautiful ice in the garden today.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Black and White Pound Cake

I always find myself hesitant to make pound cakes - not only can they be expensive but they are not very kind to the waistline. When I contemplate using 10 eggs, 4 sticks of butter, 3 cups of sugar and 4 cups of flour in a cake, I wonder - is it going to be worth it? Well, the answer to that is usually yes! I have tried several Maida Heatter pound cake recipes and all of them have been exceptional. This one sounded different and unique and it turned out to be as delicious as any of her others.

The unique part is the 3/4 cup of chocolate syrup that goes into the second batter. I have never used chocolate syrup in a cake before. She says in the introduction to the recipe that it always turned out different each time she makes it and part of the fun is seeing how the pattern turns out.I assumed that the batter would meld together and create a marbeling effect but I was wrong. The second better actually sits on top of the bottom batter and does not blend into it.

The result is a moist and delicately-flavored cake. The bottom layer has a traditional pound cake flavor with a hint of almond extract. The chocolate flavor is mild and the two compliment each other well. I also loved the slightly crunchy crust that formed on the top.

Now, to make that Kentucky Pound Cake with bourbon...

1 lb. butter (4 sticks)
1 TBS. vanilla extract
3 1/3 cups sugar
10 eggs
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 TBS. instant coffee
3/4 cup chocolate syrup

Preheat the oven to 350. Use the bottom rack. Line the bottom of a 10x4 tube pan and butter it and the sides of pan. Dust with fine, dry bread crumbs.

Beat the butter to soften. (I never remember to set out butter ahead of time to soften it. I usually use the microwave but it can be tricky. Here is a tip I saw on The Chew: Place the butter in a zip-lock bag and place it in a bowl of tepid water. Allow the top of the bag to sit above the water line. Let sit for 20-30 minutes until the butter is softened.)

Add the vanilla...
and gradually add the sugar.
Add eggs, one at a time, until well blended.
On low speed, add the flour, a little at a time.
Now remove about half of the batter and put it in a separate bowl.
Add the almond extract to the batter left in the mixing bowl.
Transfer the batter from the mixing bowl to the prepared cake pan and level it.
Return the other half of the batter to the mixing bowl and add the baking soda.
Add the cocoa...
and finally the chocolate syrup. Mix well.
Pour the chocolate batter over the other batter.
Level it well.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil (loosely placed) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 1 hour and 20 minutes. The cake is done when a tester comes out dry.
Let the cake rest on a cooling rack inside the pan for about 15 minutes before carefully inverting it and removing it from the pan.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy