Monthly Archives: May 2015

Gardening: Starting Herbs/Seeds in an Egg Carton

CAUTION: THIS IS NOT a gardening post, just information/tips that may inspire you to give growing herbs yourself a try.

If you’ve always wanted to start your own herbs, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money, an egg carton, a packet of seeds, a bag of potting soil and some plastic wrap are all you need.

Cut the top off the egg carton with a large pair of scissors or kitchen shears and save it for a bottom. Line the ‘bottom’ with a large sheet of plastic wrap. Cut off the ‘hinge’ at the front and discard it.

Use the egg carton part for a planter by filling it with potting soil  up to the bridges between the cells. Sprinkle seeds on top of the soil and then sift some more potting soil on top just to cover the seeds. For larger seeds, place them directly in the bottom of the cells and cover with the potting soil. Then water well.

Place the carton half with the seeds on top of the plastic wrapped ‘bottom’. The wrap will protect the base from excess water and provide extra stability and support for the carton with the seeds especially when it’s been watered.

Label your planted trays since you’ll end up rotating them, back to front, and switching the trays around to catch the sun so you’ll probably loose track of what’s where.

DAY 0

You’ll want to cover your planted seeds with a second sheet of plastic wrap so that the potting soil won’t dry out during the germination period.

Place the carton in a warm, sunny location and wait … 3, 4, 5 days … watering lightly every couple of days.

When you see the seedlings break through, you’ll want to remove the plastic wrap so that the seedlings have room to grow tall and sturdy. You may want to water more often at this point. Use your judgement. You don’t want the soil to dry out but you don’t want to flood your little cups either.

DAY 5

These larger seedlings are basil … sweet basil in the top 2 cells and you can JUST catch sight of a Thai basil seedling at the bottom of the picture.

These tiny seedlings are thyme

When your seeds have sprouted, cut the cells apart and plant directly in the garden or a planter. The carton material will break down, retain moisture and keep the soil loose and aerated. For smaller plants and herbs, you might want to prick holes in the bottom or even cut it out to help the tender roots break through.

Basic Pie Crust: Kentucky Derby Pie and Raisin Butter Tarts Revisited

I’ve baked butter tarts before but it’s been SO long that you may not remember these wonderful little Canadian treats. You can bake them plain or add raisins or nuts. You can even add chocolate chips to the filling. But they ALL start with a basic pie crust.

So that’s why today’s post is titled as it is.

A pie crust is the start of many great dishes, sweet OR savoury. And I’m not talking a fancy French ‘pate sucree’, like Martha Stewart whips up. I’m talking about a plain and simple, tender crust with REAL LARD!! Not butter. I used the recipe on the Tenderflake lard box, this time, but I added a teaspoon of baking powder to the basic recipe.

Why you may ask?

Cause that’s what Edna Staebler does. She’s the author of the cookbook, “Food That Really Schmecks”, among others, based on Mennonite cooking as it is practiced in the Waterloo, Ontario region. I own 4 of her cookbooks and thought that I should really start cooking out of my cookbooks more, rather than depending strictly on the internet for recipes.

Of course, I’ve said that I’d start doing that ages ago. Good intentions and all that.

The only drawback is that SOMETIMES, the cookbooks, leave out important information. Like how big you should cut out your pastry circles when making tarts and how many tarts the filling will FILL. 🙂

Tenderflake Pie Crust – makes enough pastry for  6 x 9 inch pie shell bottoms or 3 x 9 inch double crust pies

1 1 lb package of lard, roughly cut into 8-16 pieces
6 cups pastry flour or 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder (optional)
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
cold water as needed (~7/8 cup)

Stir the flour, baking powder and salt together.

Cut in the lard with a pastry blender or 2 knives until the shortening is in pea sized pieces. (They don’t all have to be the same size.)

In a measuring cup, combine the egg and vinegar. Add enough cold water to make one cup.

Stir the liquid into the flour mixture, adding just enough to make the dough cling together. Then gather the dough into a ball, and separate into 6 portions.

Wrap each portion in food wrap (Saran Wrap) snuggly and pat lightly into a disc.

Refrigerate for one hour or overnight. Before rolling the dough out, leave it at room temp for 15 mins.

Lightly flour surface and roll into circles, then pat the dough into pie pans, following pie recipes. Be careful not to stretch the dough.

Kentucky Derby Tarts

Inside the Derby tart

Kentucky Derby Pie or Tarts – makes enough filling for 1 x 9 inch pie or 18 large tarts, pie serves 6-8

1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust
1 cup white sugar (or half white and half brown or yellow)
1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3 large eggs, beaten
3/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract or sugar
2 tbsp Bourbon, dark rum or rye (I used 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp of my rye whiskey vanilla extract in place of the vanilla and Bourbon)
1/2 cups chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecan, coarsely chopped (I used walnuts cause that’s all I had)

Preheat the oven to 375 deg Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the beaten eggs, corn syrup, salt, vanilla and the liquor and whisk together so it’s well mixed.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips and the pecan pies over the base of the unbaked pie crust.

Pour the filling carefully over the chocolate chips and nuts.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is set and the edges of the pastry is a golden brown. There will be almost no jiggle in the center of the pie.

Let cool to room temperature before serving.

A scoop of ice cream or a tbsp of sweetened whipped cream is a great addition to this already decadent dessert.

Tart Variation:

For making the tarts, you’ll need enough pastry to make TWO 9 inch pie shells.

Spray the inside of the muffin tins lightly with PAM or other cooking spray to help in removing the tarts from the tins.

Roll out the pastry 1/8 inch thick and cut 4 inch circles. Lay inside large muffin tins and gently press into shape.

Sprinkle ~1 tbsp each, chocolate chips and chopped nuts in bottom of every muffin tin.

Fill each muffin tin with ~2 tbsp of the pie filling and place in the preheated oven. IMMEDIATELY reduce the oven temperature to 350 deg F and bake for 20-25 minutes until the filling is set and the underside of the tarts have browned.

NOTE: Bake the tarts in the bottom third of the oven so that the bottom of the tarts will cook through and brown.

Let the tarts cool to room temperature in the muffin tins before running a butter knife around the edge of the tins and removing.

Raisin Butter Tarts – baked as a pie

I apologize for the sloppy cut picture above. I was also making 2 large pizzas and by the time I had kneaded the dough and done all the rolling etc for the tarts, I was too tired to do more than snap a quick shot.