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American Sandwich Bread

Posted on Feb 18, 2014 | 0 comments

So, more bread today.

The man friend mentioned he’s been eating lots of PB&J sandwiches lately, and I noticed he was almost out of bread.

What better time to offer up my services?!

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I’ve never made a loaf of white sandwich bread before.

Luckily, the ol’ interwebs provided me with many options.

I narrowed it down to one from King Arthur Flour, and this one, originally from Baking Illustrated.

I set to work on the KAF recipe, as all of the recipes I’ve tried from them are near perfect. And it was a disaster! I don’t know if my yeast was faulty, but the loaf only rose on one side. Like, literally there was almost a line down the middle of the loaf where one side was proofed and puffy and risen, and the other side was dense and flat. WTF.

I discarded and started again. Luckily the Baking Illustrated recipe stated it was fairly quick to put together.

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And indeed it was!

The loaf rose like crazy and crowned HIGH ABOVE the top of the loaf pan. Of course, come baking time, my metal loaf pans were nowhere to be found, but that’s a story for another day (which will be titled “I have so many fucking baking pans that they spill out of my cabinets when I open them”). Luckily, I had a few disposable aluminum 9″x5″ pans around.

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The bread itself was soft and fragrant. It sliced beautifully. The flavor is the perfect background for a variety of toppings. The milk, butter, and honey create such a gorgeously scented dough that was very easy to handle. I especially enjoyed watching that (very active) yeast do its thing during the second rise. I thought it might even rise to the top of the oven.

My man friend loved the bread, and immediately had a few slices before the bread had even cooled. When I asked him what to change about it, he said “Nothing. Make it just like this next time.”

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So let’s get baking!

 

(Sorry for the bad photos, it was dark out).

The mixing process for the dough was so quick, I forgot to take pics. Just mix together your wet ingredients with the yeast, then slowly pour in the running stand mixer with the flour and salt. Knead until you have this:

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The dough is nice and smooth and supple! Stick in a greased bowl and cover with plastic to rise:

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The recipe says to keep it in the oven, after letting it run at 200 degrees F for 10 minutes:

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After an hour, my dough was doubled:

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Dump it out onto a work surface (mine didn’t need any flour–the dough was a delight to work with):

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And pat it into a rectangle:

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Then roll it up nice and tight:

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And stick it into your pan:

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Cover and let rise again. I went to do some dishes, and not even 15 minutes later, my dough went from this:

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To this:

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I hurried to preheat the oven, and let it finish rising another few minutes:

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And into the oven it went. The recipe also calls for a pan filled with boiling water on the bottom rack of the oven. This helps create steam, which in turn creates a nice crust on top of the bread:

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About 40 minutes later, you’ll have this:

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Turn your loaf out onto a wire rack and let it cool completely before slicing, if you can.

Then eat in whatever way you see fit! Spread with butter, toasted, make a sandwich, or with dinner. There’s nothing like the smell of homemade bread.

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AMERICAN SANDWICH BREAD

Recipe from Baking Illustrated, by Editors of Cooks Illustrated Magazine, via Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

Notes: Make sure to turn your bread out of the pan to let it cool. I let it sit in the pan, still warm, while transporting and it was a bit soggy. After letting it cool on the counter completely, the sog factor went away, but just thought I’d mention it.

  • 3 3/4 cups (18 3/4 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup whole milk, warm (about 110 degrees F)
  • 1/3 cup water, warm (about 110 degrees F)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 envelope instant yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)

 1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.

2. Mix 3½ cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook, if necessary, about 10 minutes. (After 5 minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to ¼ cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form as mooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

3. Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.

4. Gently press the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.

5. Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Pour the boiling water into the empty pan on the bottom rack at set the loaf onto the middle rack. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf read 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.

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DIY Honey Bunches of Oats + Granola

Posted on Feb 12, 2014 | 0 comments

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Today I’ve got a memory to share, a recipe (two, actually), and a little DIY action.

I love Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. The first time I had it, I was maybe 12 years old, at a sleepover at a classmate’s house. She was one of those “friends” whose demeanor and home made you a little uncomfortable as a kid, and I couldn’t wait for my mother to come pick me up.

I didn’t sleep a wink all night (anxious much?) and in the morning, I asked to use the phone and said I wasn’t feeling well. I called my mom and told her I needed to get out of there ASAP and she said she’d be there immediately.

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Wandering back into the kitchen, my friend’s mother handed me a bowl of cereal with milk. I’d never seen cereal like it before. We were not a granola eating family. I assumed based on everything else weird in that house that this cereal would taste like cardboard and scratch up my throat or something.

First bite and I was hooked.

Mom showed up within minutes and I remember having to stall her so I could eat another bowl. I made sure to ask what kind of cereal it was, and the whole way home I begged mom to buy some for us.

If this story doesn’t explain something to you about why I am the way I am, it should. I’m weird. And I like me some carbs.

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Recently I decided to try and replicate the best part of Honey Bunches of Oats at home. Because why bother with the cornflakes when you could just eat the honey-laden granola by the spoonful?

This recipe came together with a little of this and a little of that and in the end tastes pretty spot on.

I was happy to have 3+ cups of this granola lying around for breakfast and snacking, and even tried baking it into some cookies. The honey flavor is pronounced, so use a honey you love the flavor of.

After the granola recipe, I’ve included a “recipe” for replicating the cereal. You will indeed save money making your own Honey Bunches of Oats, though I have to say this one was more about the novelty and DIY aspect for me.

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HONEY GRANOLA

  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups dry oats (old fashioned or instant)

1. Preheat oven to 300 F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, add melted butter, honey, salt, vanilla, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir well to combine. Add oats and mix very well to coat them thoroughly (you can use your hands if it’s easier).

3. Spread oats evenly on baking sheet and bake until golden and toasted, about 30-40 minutes. Rotate pans every 10 minutes and toss granola around for even browning. Granola will firm up more once removed from the oven.

4. Let cool thoroughly, then store in airtight containers for up to several weeks.

Eat granola plain, add to yogurt with fruit for a parfait, sprinkle on top of ice cream or pudding, add to trail mix, or bake into granola bars.

 

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Or, make Honey Bunches of Oats cereal!

DIY HONEY BUNCHES OF OATS

  • 1 part Honey Granola
  • 1 part corn flake cereal
  • toasted almond slices, for garnish

Because the granola tends to settle to the bottom, I recommend mixing your bowl of cereal straight in the bowl. Start by adding the corn flakes, then an equal amount of granola, then sprinkle with the almond slices. Add milk and eat.

You can, of course, mix everything up beforehand. Use 3 cups of the granola, 3 cups of the flakes, and 1/2 cup of almonds. Store in airtight containers.

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Focaccia Grilled Cheese For One

Posted on Feb 5, 2014 | 0 comments

 

I have few words today. Let’s just do photos…

 

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This will all be self-explanatory, though I’ve included the “recipe” below.

 

Leftover no-knead focaccia + leftover braised green beans = one tasty lunch!

 

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FOCACCIA GRILLED CHEESE

Makes one sandwich

  • one 4.5″ square of focaccia bread
  • handful of grated mozzarella
  • generous pinch of grated Parmesan
  • a few leaves basil
  • balsamic reduction
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat broiler. Slice focaccia in half horizontally. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet.

Top one half of focaccia with the mozzarella and parmesan, and sprinkle with pepper. Broil several minutes, watching closely so as not to burn it, until cheese is melted and bread is toasted.

Top with sliced basil and drizzle with balsamic. Close. EAT.

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Quick No-Knead Focaccia!

Posted on Feb 3, 2014 | 0 comments

So, how’s everyone recovering from Super Bowl weekend?

I didn’t watch the game. Not one second of it. Not even the halftime show. Truth be told, I woke up yesterday and broke out the easel and painted for like 10 hours nonstop.

Never been a fan of football…

Bread, on the other hand? Always a fan.

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Today I’ve got one of my favorite recipes of recent months. I found the recipe here, and was immediately in love with the gorgeous photos. But I was skeptical that a bread with so little fuss could taste “developed,” nor did I think the short rise time could possibly yield a nice texture.

Boy, was I wrong!

This focaccia takes NO KNEADING, ONE BOWL, and only 40 MINUTES TO RISE.

And it’s made of only 4 ingredients: yeast, water, flour, and salt. Just like a good bread should be!

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It’s shaped right in the pan you bake it in. You shape focaccia by poking it with olive-oil-covered fingers. What’s not to love?

The bread is soft and fluffy inside with crisp edges and a beautiful flavor. It’s endlessly customizable in terms of toppings–my personal preference is some fresh chopped rosemary, garlic, and flaky sea salt.

After making this bread for the first time, I threw out my old focaccia recipe (which took several hours to make), and I’ve now made this one too many times to count. It’s perfect to keep around for snacking, as a side with any dinner, and makes a wonderful grilled cheese!

So let’s get baking…

 

Mix your water and yeast in a large bowl. The original recipe doesn’t call for proofing, but I always do to make sure my yeast is alive and kicking:

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Add your flour and salt:

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And mix just until a (sticky) dough comes together:

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Now, cover it up and stick it in a warm place. Set a timer for 40 minutes:

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And come back to a beautifully risen, puffy dough:

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You can bake this bread free-form on a baking sheet, but I like to stick it in a pan. I LOVE these disposable aluminum pans for bread baking because they’re easy, there’s no mess to clean up, they’re good for transporting, and they allow even baking of the insides without creating a tough crust. They’re especially good for sweet doughs, like cinnamon rolls or my favorite coffee cake.

Here comes the fun!

Drizzle your baking pan liberally with olive oil:

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See those “strings” in the dough? That means the gluten developed nicely, and that this bread will be tasty and wonderfully textured:

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Dump your dough in that pan. Don’t worry about it being sticky. Sticky dough=moist and tender bread. Drizzle it lightly with more olive oil:

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And use your fingertips to poke the dough all over, lightly stretching it into place as you go. Stretch it all the way into the corners!

Now, the toppings. Today I’m using some garlic salt, a sliced red tomato, fresh chopped rosemary from my new garden, and some dried Italian herbs. Oh, and CHEESE! Fresh Parmesan on top. I also gave it a few grinds of black pepper and sea salt:

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Bake that baby in the oven and watch it riiiiise:

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It really puffs up nicely and gets all golden while baking. Your house will smell amazing:

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Wait a bit before slicing in (if you can). I couldn’t:

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YUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMM:

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QUICK NO-KNEAD FOCACCIA

Recipe from The View From Great Island

Notes: I make a half recipe and it is perfect for an 8″x8″ or 9″x9″ pan. This focaccia stays nice and soft for 2 days, wrapped and covered, at room temperature. When adding tomatoes and fresh cheeses, I keep it in the refrigerator and toast it back up in the oven before eating. I’ve used both instant and active-dry yeast in this recipe and both work equally well.

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2  1/4 teaspoons yeast (one .25 oz package)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • Toppings: fresh or dried herbs, garlic, sea salt, tomatoes, cheese, caramelized onions, etc.

1. In a large bowl, whisk together water and yeast. Add the salt and 2 cups of the flour and stir to combine. Add remaining 2 cups of flour, mixing well, until a sticky dough forms.

2. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 40 minutes.

3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a baking sheet or baking pan (9″x13″) by coating with olive oil.

4. Dump dough onto pan. Drizzle liberally with olive oil, then poke all over with your fingertips to create dimples, slowly stretching dough to shape as you go. Scatter toppings across the top, and finish with a few grinds of salt.

5. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden brown all over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfect Snickerdoodles

Posted on Jan 31, 2014 | 0 comments

Snickerdoodles.

One of my favorite cookies of all time. There’s something about the simplicity of them that I crave often. Perfectly chewy and buttery with a light crunch from a liberal rolling in cinnamon sugar.

They are also–in my opinion–one of the most underrated cookies of all time. They take second billing to the chocolate-laden, caramel-y, frosted, peanut-butter, sprinkle-coated cookies on the tray. It’s not fair!

The good ol’ reliable ‘doodle deserves to be in the spotlight.

Without fail, every time I make these and bring them to friends, they remark that these are such great cookies and “Why don’t you see them more often?!”

They are certainly gorgeous too:

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When I was a kid, I thought snickerdoodles must be cookies with Snickers pieces in them. To anyone who doesn’t know, a snickerdoodle is essentially a sugar cookie dough which is rolled in cinnamon sugar before baking. According to Wikipedia:

“The Joy of Cooking claims that snickerdoodles are probably German in origin, and that the name is a corruption of the German word Schneckennudeln (“snail doodles”), a kind of pastry. It is also possible that the name is simply a nonsense word with no particular meaning, originating from a New England tradition of whimsical cookie names.”

To me, the mark of a good snickerdoodle is a beautifully crackled top, just the slightest tang from their “secret ingredient” (cream of tartar), a soft and moist interior, and PLENTY OF CINNAMON SUGAR!!!

This recipe meets all those criteria and is the only one I’ll use. It’s been tweaked many times over the years and I have no idea where it originally came from. But I hope you’ll give them a try and enjoy them as much as I do!

Let’s bake…

First, cream some butter and white sugar:

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Add an egg and some vanilla:

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Then the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt:

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This is a thick dough, so get it all nice and uniform before chilling briefly:

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Meanwhile, prepare a dish with cinnamon sugar:

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And now it’s time to roll! You can enlist your trusty child servants children to help:image9

Stick ‘em on a baking sheet and bake!

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SNICKERDOODLES

Makes about 2 dozen 2 1/2″ cookies

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1  1/2 to 1  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

For rolling:

  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 2  1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

2. Mix 1 1/2 cups of the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl, then add to wet ingredients and mix until incorporated. Dough should be thick. Try picking up a pinch of dough and rolling it into a ball. If it is too sticky, add in remaining 1/4 flour, a tablespoon or two at a time, until dough is easy to handle. Cover and refrigerate about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, mix cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl or dish and set aside.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

5.  Once dough has chilled, roll into golf ball-sized balls and place in cinnamon-sugar, rolling to coat thoroughly. Place on baking sheets, leaving 2-3 inches of space between cookies.

6. Bake for 7-9 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. I like to also sprinkle the cookies with additional cinnamon-sugar halfway through baking, once they’ve flattened slightly. Cookies are done when beginning to turn golden brown around edges and just set in the middles. Do not overbake!

DIY Herb Garden // You Have No Excuse Not To!

Posted on Jan 29, 2014 | 0 comments

True to my word, here is another DIY post.

Today we’re going to talk about planting your own herb garden. It’s easy, cheap, and will provide you with fresh herbs for months and months to come.

The good news is you don’t need a yard, a lot of time for maintenance, and even those of you with a black thumb can do it!

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I doubt we need a whole tutorial on how to stick some plants in the ground, but I’ll do it anyway just to show you how quick and easy it is. I have a close friend with a gigantic back yard and she is terrified to plant herbs, so I know people like this are out there. We are so lucky to live in SoCal, where the “seasons” allow us to plant produce pretty much year-round. I say there’s no excuse not to.

**Apologies to those of you who live in the Midwest and on the East Coast right now. I know the weather is frightful and the following shots of sun and green things probably seems so far away.**

 

First, gather your supplies. I swung by my local gardening store and picked up a “medium” bag of organic potting soil mix, and 4 types of herbs I use most: basil, cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, and rosemary. The soil was about $6 (and I have about half the bag left for another project), and the herbs were around $2 to $3 each:

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Now you just need a container. If you have a yard, you can find a little spot without too much foot traffic to just stick these bad boys in the ground. If you have an apartment with a balcony or patio, grab a container like I’m doing and stick them in there. And if you have an apartment with no patio, you’ll want to stick your herbs in a container small enough to keep on a table or windowsill that gets some sun, but large enough that they have room to grow and for roots to develop. So choose your container/s accordingly! You can always ask someone for help at the store.

I’m going to use this big thing. It came with my house, thank god, because there’s no way I could’ve lugged this thing home myself from Home Depot:

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You’ll want to move your planter into its permanent spot before filling it, by the way. This thing’s about to get heavy. I keep mine on the porch just outside the front door for a few reasons:

1. I have to pass by it every single day, so it’s easy to keep an eye on when the plants need watering. I also keep a full watering can next to it so even if I’m in a rush or not getting home ’til 10 PM, I can just grab the can and water it real quick.

2. There’s no chance of someone (or the DOGS!) trampling, eating, or otherwise destroying my plants.

3. There is plenty of sunlight in this area, but not so much that the plants get scorched in our 100+ degree summers.

Anyway, once you’ve chosen your spot and container, you just start filling it with soil:

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…Leaving enough room at the top to stick your plants in. Remove the plants from their plastic containers and figure out how you want them arranged, leaving space between them:

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Now, just fill in the space with more soil, making sure to envelope the plants and their roots. Use a bit of pressure when patting the soil down to support the plants in an upright position:

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All that’s left now is to water them liberally and let them hang out in the sun for a bit! They’ll begin to perk up almost immediately.

I usually use much smaller containers for my herbs and plant them separately, but this year I want them all to grow together in this behemoth of a pot. Basil especially grows like crazy on my porch. I may end up running out of space, but we’ll see how it goes.

So that’s it. Just keep watering the herbs when the soil begins to dry out, and make sure they’re in the sun a bit every day. It’s really not complicated!

I just planted these babies last week and have already found myself running outside from the kitchen 4 times to clip some fresh herbs for breads, sandwiches, and dinner. There’s little in life as simply satisfying as having fresh produce at arm’s reach.

I’ll be starting my vegetable garden seedlings soon and will do a whole post about that, in case you’d rather grow from seeds. And I’ll update on the progress of these herbs in a few weeks once they’ve started to really thrive.

Hope you all are having a fantastic week!