When you’re out enjoying the Minnesota winter landscape, do you ever wonder what type of evergreen you are looking at? It’s easy to assume that any evergreen is a pine tree, but in fact there are many! The top three types of evergreen trees are:
The easiest way to tell them apart is to take a look at the needles.
Pine needles grow in a cluster from one point of origin. These needles are softer and longer than other trees.
In contrast, spruce needles are short and stiff and are attached to their branch from a single point of origin.
Fir needles are soft and flat, and attach to the branch in a suction cup like manner.
Wondering what type of evergreen is best for your yard?
Pine trees do best in well-drained soil with lots of sun, and their needles become a nice mulch. These types of trees do best in more barren landscapes.
Spruce trees work best for wind blockers, and also prefer well drained soil in cooler areas.
Fir trees are ideal for rocky areas with thin topsoil.
We like Christmas traditions, and one of them is baking and sharing some of our favorite recipes. Our first one is delicious Pumpkin Pie Creme Brûlée that our foreman and construction manager Alan and his wife shared with the crew this year. His daughter Sydney looks like she’s having fun in the kitchen, too!
Pumpkin Pie Creme Brûlée
2 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean split and scraped
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup granulated sugar + more for garnish
4 egg yolks
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
Add the cream, vanilla bean and its seeds to a medium saucepan that is set over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture is boiling, remove the saucepan from the heat, cover with a lid and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Remove the vanilla bean and discard.
In a medium bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the wire attachment, whisk together on medium-high speed the sugar and the egg yolks until well combined, the mixture must start to lighten in color and become fluffy. Whisk in the pumpkin spice and pumpkin puree, scrape the sides of the bowl and mix until well combined.
Whisk the cream, adding it slowly, a little at a time, whisking and stirring continually. Stop the mixer, scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again on medium-low speed for a few seconds to make sure the mixture is well blended.
Pour the liquid into 5-6 ramekins.
Place the ramekins in a large roasting pan and pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the side of the ramekins.
Bake until the crème brûlée is set, but still trembling in the center, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the roasting pan, let them come to room temperature. After that refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 3 days.
The pumpkin pie crème brûlée must be removed from the refrigerator 30 prior to browning the sugar on top. Sprinkle the tops with 1 tablespoon of sugar and using a torch, melt the sugar and form crispy top. Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Dutch Chocolate Balls
The second recipe is a favorite of Tom’s family and was shared by his mom, Susan – Dutch Chocolate Balls. She makes them every year and adds them to our stockings! They’re always a big hit with kids and adults, too! Here are two of our kids, James and Violet, mixing up a batch!
Dutch Chocolate Balls
1 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Melt butter, then add peanut butter, graham crackers & vanilla, mix well, then add powdered sugar. Mix well and form into small balls.
Melt 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 bar of paraffin wax.