Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Blooming of the Easter Egg Tree

A deciduous Easter Egg tree and shrub.

From mid March through the end of April, the colorful Easter Egg tree blooms throughout western Pennsylvania. This colorful display of "blooms" can be seen on deciduous trees and shrubs and also on evergreen shrubs. The Easter Egg tree/shrub is more or less a miracle of nature. It would appear that one does not need two trees to have the blooms. I have noticed a single blooming tree with no other blooming tree within miles. I have yet to see honey bees swarming to gather nectar from the blooms. So pollination is not an issue of concern either.
  I have looked in the local garden centers and big box retailers and have yet to find a seedling/sapling to plant in my own garden.  There is a seed company out of Georgia that sells an "Easter Egg tree" seed.
 The picture on the website is that of a white egg- shaped eggplant. Not what I was looking for.
Googling for a live Easter Egg tree only brings search results about using a branch stuck in a bucket with blown decorated egg shells hanging on it. Even gardening guru, Martha Stewart only shows the German and Swiss traditional branch with blown egg shells. For those fortunate to have an Easter Egg tree blooming in their yard, congratulations. 
 As you travel around town on these last days before The Bunny comes, be sure to keep an eye out for these sure signs that warmer, sunnier days are to come.

A coveted  Weeping Easter Egg tree

Evergreen Easter shrubs

A well-established Easter Egg tree in full bloom

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rainy Days and Chocolate

It was another rainy, cold day in western PA. It's time for we farmers to be digging up the ground and planting our crops. We have been blessed with lots of rain - which we will probably be thankful for in the heat of the summer. sure can drag me down. This recipe came to me from Fine Cooking. They send me a recipe a day. This was the day to bake some happiness. So these little beauties created quite a stir on FB yesterday. I have orders from friends and family all over the country and requests for the recipe. I really hope Kenny got the one out of my mailbox I put there for him to pick up. If not, Cindi, the mail lady will get a big surprise. It was down to 34 degrees last night so it should still be good this morning.

                                                            Banana Split Brownies
For the brownies:
1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 large eggs
1 medium overripe mashed banana
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

For the topping:
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1/8 cup Banana liqueur (I love this stuff!!! It's like a banana popsicle with a kick!!!)
7 oz. mildly bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I use Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.)
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Make the brownies:
With the rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 350*. Butter and flour the sides and bottom of an 8 inch square glass baking dish.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it smells nutty and turns golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and salt in. Add the eggs, banana, and vanilla. Whisk in the cocoa and flour, mixing slowly at first and then more vigorously until the batter is combined.
Spread the batter in the prepared baking dish, smoothing it so it fills the pan evenly.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with just a few moist clumps clinging to it. 40 to 45 minutes.
Let the brownies cool in the pan before topping.

Make the topping:
Bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat. Stir in the banana liqueur.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Reheat the cream mixture and stir in the melted chocolate until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Pour the ganache(chocolate and cream mixture) evenly over the cooled brownies.
Cover the ganache with the mallows and almonds. Put the broiler rack about 6 inches below flame. Heat broiler on high. Broil the brownies, rotating the pan every 20 seconds or so to keep the mallows from burning, until browned.
Let the brownies cool in the pan until the ganache is set, at least 2 hours.

Instant Happiness!!!