Monday, June 11, 2012

A June Boon

Our first wave of cool-season crops (peas, lettuce, and radishes) finally fizzled out, so I removed the spent plants and replaced them with tomatoes, chives, and dill.  However, I left a few of the radish plants out, even though they'd "bolted"(threw up a stalk, rendering them basically inedible).  I left them up for two reasons.  First...aren't they beautiful?

Second...they can still provide pollen for the bees, and I want to help them out as much as I can! 

And, of course, the radishes will eventually form seed pods in place of the flowers, and I will gather the seeds for next year's planting.

While working in the beds, I noticed a praying mantis nymph in the dirt.

Minutes later, I spotted another one on the side of one of the container gardens.  They must have recently hatched, but for the life of me I couldn't find a single ootheca this year. 

Happily, there are lots of insects in the garden now.  Grasshoppers...


Long-legged flies (Diptera: Dolichopodidae)...

 Your garden-variety flies...

...and lots of mystery insects that I can never seem to identify.

 Of course, the bees are very active in the flowers.

He's been busy...check out that pollen packet on his hind legs!

As you can see from the above picture, the larkspur is flourishing.

The snapdragons that I've been babying since seed-hood are finally coming into flower, too.  I planted the tall kind (2 - 3 feet) and a wide variety of colors.  The very first snapdragon plant to open has amazing, rich colors that remind me of a sunset.


My ruffled daylilies are opening up, too.  I have a confession:  I never used to like daylilies. But I've since learned that you can buy a succession of daylilies in any color you'd like that will bloom from spring 'til fall.  They are beautiful bright spots in the garden.

And I love those ruffles!

I always grab a few daylilies when I make my weekly trip to the yard to gather plants for my bouquets.

I split them up between several small vases...

...and scatter them all over the house.  The real secret to a great bouquet, just like to a great garden, is the green you choose to set off your flowers.  For these bouquets, I use parsley.  The leafy foliage and airy umbels are the perfect neutral background.

I didn't plant parsley this year, but I had a large crop last year, and one plant re-seeded in a cement crack between our container gardens.  That one seed grew a plant almost as tall as I am, and now I have enough parsley for weekly bouquets all summer long.  I will never again make the mistake of not planting parsley.

Here's one of the stars of the show...

It only takes one to really brighten things up!

I cut pretty heavily from my Russian Sage plant, but it can take it.  Russian Sage makes a fabulous bouquet, with its tiny purple flowers and its heady scent.  It lasts forever in a vase, too.

Speaking of "heady scent"...I recently made what may be my favorite cupcakes ever.  Everyone in my gym classes knows about them...and my friends...the clerks at our local post office...and maybe the grocery store, too!  I just can't stop talking about how good they are.  Are you ready for this?  They're brown sugar chocolate chip cupcakes, stuffed with (eggless) chocolate chip cookie dough, topped with a brown sugar buttercream frosting.

Can you say RICH and DELICIOUS? 

They're fairly quick to put together, but be sure to plan a jog around the block afterwards...they're a teeny, tiny bit calorie-laden.  ;) 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough-Stuffed Brown Sugar Cupcakes
Annie's Eats
Makes 20 - 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1½ cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)

For the filling:
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting: 
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract

First, make your cupcakes!  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease two cupcake pans.  With your mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar for three minutes, until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. 

In a separate bowl, combine your flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly add this to your wet mixture, alternating with the milk, until just combined.  Blend in vanilla and fold in chocolate chips. 

Fill cupcake tins and bake for about 18 minutes, until golden brown.

While your cupcakes are baking, make your cookie dough.  Cream your butter and sugar for two minutes, and then beat in your flour, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla.  Stir in chocolate chips, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about an hour.

Now, just as your cupcakes are cool, your cookie dough will be ready!

Take a knife and cut a "cone" out of the center of your cupcake.

Spoon in some cookie dough...

Cut the bottom part of the cone off and place the top of the cone 'lid' back on the cupcake.

You'll have a pile of leftover cones, but I daresay you'll find a way to dispose of them.  Ahem.

To make your frosting, beat together the sugar and butter and then mix in the powdered sugar.  Beat in your flour and salt, and then the milk and vanilla.  Combine until smooth.  Pipe onto your cupcakes.

Just to see what you did, cut a cupcake in half and marvel at the cookie dough perfection.

Then eat.  Repeat as desired.

I hope you'll give them a try this week...doesn't everyone need some cookie dough goodness sometimes?


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