Time for More Basil

Back in early October, we had unseasonably cold weather.  So I snipped about a dozen branches from the basil plants in my garden and put them into water, hoping to extend their usable life by a few weeks. To my surprise they rooted and thrived in my kitchen. (I was surprised because I have never had luck keeping potted basil plants inside.) To my even greater surprise, I was able to keep them going for six months … well at least one of them. Because I used their leaves all winter, I am down to the last stem on my last branch. They were incredibly easy to keep going. I just changed the water and washed out the jars about once a week. What a wonderful, unexpected run of fresh basil. It is still too early to put new plants into the ground, as basil is not very cold hardy. However, I can start a few pots and just bring them in when the temperatures are about to dip too low. Yay! No need to be without this wonderful herb!

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Have a lovely weekend!

A Dainty Little Cake

A couple who will be getting married at The Morning Star in October really wanted to preview their cake beforehand. So, I made two miniatures for them to taste, working with a few of the elements that I will be incorporating into the actual wedding cake which will be blush pink, ivory, and steel-gray.

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Banana Mocha Coconut Muffins

The other morning, I had a guest on an almost vegan diet; so I made these delicious muffins which one would never know were free of dairy products and eggs. I hope that you enjoy the recipe!

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Banana Mocha Coconut Muffins

3/4 c. sweetened shredded coconut

2 c. all-purpose flour

1 c. granulated white sugar

2 T. instant coffee or 2 t. espresso powder

1 T. baking powder

1 c. mashed ripe bananas

1 c. coconut milk

1/2 c. canola oil

1 T. coconut rum

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, preferably miniature ( use vegan chocolate if needed)

1 recipe Coffee Coconut Milk Glaze (below)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spread coconut on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for 3 to 4 minutes or until just starting to turn golden at the edges. Remove coconut from baking sheet and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prepare 12 standard muffin cups or 10 four-ounce ramekins with baking spray.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, 2 T. of the instant coffee or 2 t. of the espresso powder, and baking powder. Set aside.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together bananas, coconut milk, canola oil, and rum. Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients. Fold in chocolate chips.

5. Divide batter into ramekins or muffin cups. Using the back of a spoon, shape each cup of batter into a slight mound. Bake 15 to 20 minutes for 12 muffins or 20 to 25 minutes for 10 muffins. Muffins are firm to the touch when done.

6. Meanwhile, prepare Coffee Coconut Milk Glaze. Glaze muffins immediately upon removing from oven and  then sprinkle them with toasted coconut.

Coffee Coconut Milk Glaze

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

2 T. coconut milk

1/2 t. minced orange or lemon zest

1/2 t. instant coffee or 1/4 t. instant espresso powder

1/2 t. coconut rum, light rum, or orange or lemon extract

1. In a small bowl, slowly stir coconut milk into confectioner’s sugar. Stir in coffee, then zest, then rum or extract. Stir until smooth, then warm glaze to dissolve coffee.

A Wedding in Oranges

We hosted a charming wedding at Bed & Breakfast yesterday. There was quite a bit to do to get ready and so, unfortunately, I didn’t have time to photograph the cake or the bride’s bouquet. I did take a few photos of some of the other flowers today, though. The bride loves orange, especially orange daisies. So I made her bouquet with four styles of orange gerbera daisies along with coppery-pink florists roses and peach-colored spray roses. The textures and colors were so cheerful that I used the same assortment of flowers to decorate the cake. We at The Morning Star wish the bride and groom a very happy future together!

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Another Happy Wedding … Cake

Despite the frigid temperatures today, we had another beautiful outdoor wedding here at The Morning Star. The bride wore a stunning strapless gown and the groom was in dress military uniform. There were only six people at the service, so I made a miniature, but highly detailed, wedding cake. The three layer white butter cake was frosted with real vanilla buttercream and decorated with hundreds and hundreds of sugar pearls in varying sizes.  It took two of us about 45 minutes to place them all. The cake was then finished with fresh roses and the bride’s cake topper. I didn’t want to get in the photographer’s way, but I did manage to get a few pictures of the cake. This is one that I liked because the late afternoon sun’s rays seemed to imbue the scene with real emotion. May the bridge and groom have a truly happy future together!

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A Walkway

Twelve years ago, when we bought our  house to turn it into a bed and breakfast, the yard was a mess … almost entirely weeds and dirt. We had originally opened the B&B in a house across the street from Manhattan City Park four years earlier. So when we moved, I wanted our new yard to feel like a miniature park.  I got out my graph paper, measured the yard, and came up with a landscape design. Central to the design was a fountain surrounded by a stone walkway.  My husband Bill and our friend Jason went to a local quarry and brought back three pick-up truck loads of limestone to build the path. Once it was done, we planted several flats of creeping thyme between the stones. I was so excited. I thought that the walkway looked like it could have been in a magazine.

As Robert Burns wrote, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. The creeping thyme could not hold back weeds. Dandelions, crabgrass, and a whole host of undesirables grew right up through the thyme. In weeding, we always wound up pulling up the ground cover, separating the weeds, then replanting what of the thyme we could – and then planting new thyme the next season. I finally got tired of that cycle and gave up on the interplantings all together. That left us with a stone pathway with just dirt between the rocks.  Moreover, the rocks hadn’t weathered well, and many were broken and uneven. The walkway looked antique, as though it could have been constructed when the house was built in 1902; but it was not as attractive as I wished it were and I was always stubbing my toes on it.

It took a couple of years for me to work up the courage to make the call – the stone walkway had to go! This past week, my helper Benjamin dug up the limestone, used it to fortify the border around our central flower bed and to build stone walls on the sides of the property. He then laid down cedar bark mulch which, at least for now, is lovely and so soft to walk on. It gives me happy feet!

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