SEPTEMBER 29, 2011 ISSUE
Celebrate Autumn with Chrysanthemum Marigolds
Our yellow chrysanthemums sometimes struggle and may not make a big display, but this year they will be outshined by the chrysanthemum marigolds anyway. These big showy flowers were favorites 50 to 60 years ago and, in the ‘90s, Texas A&M worked on the flowers, coming up with their mari-mums. Today, several companies have different types, including Park Seed, which has Mumsy in yellow, gold, orange and mixed colors.
The plants are supposed to grow eight inches across and 14 inches tall, but here they are bigger in both directions. The flowers are at least the touted four inches across and are so full that they almost form a sphere of petals.
Those petals are shaggy and curve inward to make the very frilled double flower shape. You can grow them in garden beds or containers, and they did well in both places here. The best use may be for cut flowers. Long stems, topped with huge flowers last more than two weeks in a vase. The bloom time is also long. They come into flower by late spring if seeded inside and just a little later when sown directly in the garden. Now, the plants look like they have been growing for a while but are still pretty and still blooming.
Picking the last annuals on the night of the first frost is a well-loved garden ritual, and these big, beautiful blossoms will contribute to that soon.
Now, come in out of the garden and make some delicious breakfast bars. The outside beckons on these beautiful autumn days, so make something fast that you can take with you when you go exploring to see those first golden leaves. They are also good for breakfast because by now those resolutions to cook breakfast each morning before school this year may be wearing a little thin.
Chocolate Raspberry Almond Breakfast Bars
Although these are delicious for breakfast, you can also serve them for dessert or a snack and, of course, they are perfect to take on your autumn hikes. You can dream up endless variations of this using different grains, nuts and fruits. This version is especially delicious, but feel free to use dried blueberries, figs, raisins or apricots instead of the raspberries. You can also use two, three or four fruits, just make sure to keep the same totals so that the bars have enough of everything to hold them together. The oats should not be instant, and the almonds could be sliced. If you have whole nuts you should chop them into medium pieces, and you can substitute pecans or walnuts or any of your favorites. Commercial bars often have very large amounts of sugars and or fats. You can make this without any added sugar or honey or butter, but the bars will not have a luscious texture and it will be difficult to keep them together after they are cut.
3 cups oatmeal
1-1/2 cups slivered almonds
1-1/2 cups coconut
¾ cup almond butter
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
optional: ¼ to ¾ cups brown sugar
1 pound dried raspberries or other dried fruit
¾ cup toasted wheat germ
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Find a large sheet pan and an 11x15 baking dish. I used a glass baking dish, but ceramic or metal would be fine. Coat the baking dish with a thin coat of vegetable oil, then line with aluminum foil and oil again. You want to leave some extra foil extending from the two long sides of your baking dish. These will be used to make it easier to remove the breakfast bars from the pan.
Place the oatmeal, nuts and coconut on the sheet pan and stir to mix. If you have untoasted wheat germ you should bake it along with the oats. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until everything is lighted browned.
While the grains are toasting you want to melt the almond butter with a few other ingredients. You can do this in a saucepan on top of the stove or in the microwave. I like to use a very large (2 quart) glass measuring pitcher in the microwave. Place the almond butter, butter, salt, cocoa powder, honey, vanilla and almond extracts (and optional sugar, if desired) in the pitcher and melt. This took about a minute and a half in my oven, but they vary considerably so check carefully. Stir the warmed ingredients vigorously with a fork or small whisk until smooth.
If you are using large dried fruits like whole plums or figs, you should chop them into bite-sized pieces. Then, place the raspberries (or other dried fruits) and the toasted wheat germ into a very large bowl.
When the oats are toasty remove them from the oven and turn the heat down to 300 degrees. If you are using a glass baking dish go down to 275 degrees.
Add the warm oats to the raspberries and toss to mix. Stir the almond butter mixture into the batter and make sure everything is combined.
Pour the batter into the pan, then make sure it is evenly distributed. Lightly press down to make sure the ingredients are nestled into the pan with no air pockets. You can use the back of a plastic spoon or your fingers, which have been dipped into cold water.
Bake for about 30 minutes. You want the bars to be lightly browned around the edges and cooked enough so that they stay together.
Let cool, in the pan, on a rack until they are barely warm. Then, remove the whole pan of bars using the attached extra foil. Cut into large bars while still barely warm. This is when they are easiest to cut and you are less likely to have difficulty getting nice pretty bar shapes. I used a metal bench scraper, which worked very well.
Let cool further until they are room temperature, then, store tightly covered. They last well at room temperature for days. If you are going to store them longer you can wrap each one individually in wax paper or parchment paper and tuck into the freezer.
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