Sunday, August 25, 2013

Urban Farming (and an unexpected guest!)

We live on a standard city-sized lot in our town, about 10,000 feet. It's large by some standards, small by others. When we moved here the swimming pool dominated the landscape so we have had to landscape and garden around it. There is no room to put a traditional vegetable garden so I grow tomatoes and basil in the flower beds, mint grows underneath a tree rose, rosemary in another flower bed. We have a raspberry bush climbing up a trellis. An espaliered-apple tree (6 different varieties of apples grow on it!) grows along our back fence and a pomegranate tree is in our front yard flower bed.  I also have a dwarf lemon and a blood orange tree. I just fit things in wherever I can!

I enjoy our little harvests, watching the fruits and vegetables grow through the season, and turning them into dinners and baked goods. Today I harvested basil (probably the last of the season) and the apples.  I really should've picked the apples sooner as many had fallen or the birds had pecked at them! It's been a busy few weeks for me!

A lot of my basil harvest each year goes to making pesto. It's so easy and so yummy! Just throw some basil in the food processor, add salt, pulse a bit.  Then add parmesan cheese, pine nuts, garlic and olive oil and process until smooth.

I usually freeze the pesto in a muffin-sized silicone pan I have.  Once frozen I store in freezer ziploc bags.  It's easy to grab a "muffin" or two to make pasta, add to a soup, make a sandwich. It's one of my go-to freezer staples.



There are many recipes for pesto, here is the one I use.

Pesto Sauce

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves, well dried after washing
Salt to taste
10 tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan cheese
6 tablespoons pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
1 cup olive oil

In a blender or food processor, combine the basil and salt.  Process until chopped, just a few seconds.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until a smooth, creamy sauce forms.

Next on the agenda was Caramel Apple Coffee Cake.  The recipe came from Southern Living (recipe here.) It was very good but next time I make it I will use a sour cream coffee cake base instead. The cake was a little dry for me plus the sour cream would add more richness. Just my two cents! It would be a great coffee cake for a fall brunch or tea and could easily be made the day before.

The cake has multiple steps but each are easy, don't let the recipe intimidate you.  The caramel and streusel topping can be made ahead of time.

The caramel  has honey in it, which is a little different twist from normal caramel.  It actually went very well with the apples. All the ingredients are combined in a pan, brought to a boil, stirring continuously for two minutes.

The coffee cake consists of a layer of the cake, some caramel, sauteed apples and streusel topping.  Once baked and cooled, it's topped with more caramel.

 My husband is on a two-week bicycle/camping trip in Montana but I had the urge to bake. I took this slice for me then promptly walked around the neighborhood passing out plates of cake!  I have three pieces left for the office tomorrow.
 As I was cleaning up the kitchen I noticed that I had an unexpected guest residing on my butcher block.  I suspect he came in with the apples! Praying mantis are great for the garden so I carefully scooped him up and took him out to a rosh bush.  


  1. Mmmmm...that coffee cake looks terrific, Julie!!! Printed off the recipe and will tweak as you suggested.

  2. Love the pesto idea and the cake looks sooooooooooooo good. Thanks for joining Inspire Me. Hugs, Marty