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Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Vegetable Garden Update

Originally I was going to try to grow everything indoors to prevent the pests from demolishing the plants. However, I quickly realized that they weren’t hardening off because the temperatures at night weren’t getting low enough. So, I revised my plan and moved them outside. I watched them, tended them, lost a few of them, and watched the ones that have survived grow strong.

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Our tomato sill doesn’t have any fruit yet, which has been a bit concerned. Also, a couple of my plants seem to have some bug friends, probably aphids.

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Does anyone have a good home remedy to get rid of them?

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More Mid-July Blooms

First off I would just like to say that I am so glad that we are not having a heat wave. I get horrible heat rash and right now it is so pleasant. The temperatures have been around 80 and there has been a nice cool breeze at night. I love the Pacific Northwest.

There have been a few new flowers opening. I am so excited that the Rose of Sharon is blooming. I would really like to move it, trim it and make it into a focal point because I love it so much. The anemones are about the open, but they aren’t quite there yet. I have been busy weeding and reclaiming some of the ground which has been overtaken with lemon mint. I like the smell of it, but boy does it make a bed look messy. Anyway, here are a few new pictures for you to enjoy.

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I also caught a hummingbird in the garden today. I wish I had a better lens so that I could have gotten a closer picture.

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There’s a First Time for Everything

Yesterrday we left town for a vacation to the Bay Area. I love visiting. I have so many good memories and some of my closest girlfriends still live there. Sometimes I’ll hear a song on the radio and it will trigger a memory and it makes me feel carefree and happy.

Anyway, tomorrow, I am leaving my son with my husband and in-laws for two nights! Yikes. The longest I have ever left him was six hours when he was only a couple of months old and we were looking for houses. I haven’t left him for more than two hours since and never overnight. I’m sure everything will be fine, but it does make me nervous. I hope he will be okay without me, but at the same time I hope that he misses me. While my husband and in-laws will be running around chasing after a toddler, I will be hanging out with my girlfriends. Friday night will be catch up on everything night and Saturday is the main event.

For the past three years my friend and dance extraordinaire Melissa Rutz has put on a west coast swing dance in San Francisco. It is always in July and previously I have always been consumed with cherry harvest. This year, I finally get to go. I am looking forward to seeing all of my California friends, and hanging out sans kid.

If you are in the SF area and would like more information, you can check out Melissa’s web page: http://www.melissarutz.com/swingalicious.html. My good friends Courtney and Sean are teaching the lesson and Rachel, my extra special good friend (she doesn’t like the term best friend, and anyway that spot belongs to my husband, so she’s extra special) is DJing along with Melissa, so the music is going to be extra awesome. It’s going to be one fun night!

Bananas for Bananas

My son loves bananas. It’s to point that if I am packing it as his snack he can’t even see it or else he wants it immediately. I have tried to explain that he will get to eat it later, but being 15 months he doesn’t quite understand that yet. Needless to say, we buy a lot of bananas. The unfortunate side of having a lot of bananas around is that they tend to age quickly due to all the ethylene they produce. Personally, I dislike a banana that has brown spots on it, which means I must re-purpose the banana or throw it away. Since I hate wasting food, there’s only one thing left to do.

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Banana bread. This is our favorite recipe, which I found online. It is moist and full of flavor. It is a great way to use up those overripe bananas.

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Since we had a couple extra after making the bread, I decided to make something easy and simple and every pyromaniac’s dream: bananas foster.

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Cut bananas into four pieces and cook for 5 minutes per side. After first flip sprinkle bananas with brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

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Remove bananas and add brandy or dark rum. Scrape up bits from bottom of pan and then light. One the flame has been extinguished pour over bananas.

Unfortunately, the ice cream got put on the bottom of the dish so it melted pretty quickly once the bananas and sauce were added. While it was delicious, it wasn’t exactly photo worthy and I didn’t want to embarrass myself. As a note for next time and anyone else looking to make it, add the ice cream last!

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

My favorite thing about summer is fresh fruit. It is addicting. When I worked at the experiment station south of Fresno, California for a summer I had some of the best peaches of my life. They used to put out a bin of fruit, send an e-mail and we’d flock to get the choicest peaches, nectarines and plums. It was heaven.

In the Pacific Northwest, the peaches aren’t quite as good as right off the tree as we got in Fresno, but they are still mighty tasty. However, the blueberries are extraordinary! This week my husband’s uncle and aunt from Southern California were visiting and joined us for dinner. The dinner itself was nothing note-worthy, but dessert…Yum!
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Ingredients

1 c. all-purpose flour

½ c. granulated sugar

1 ½ tsp. baking powder

½ c. milk

¼ c. butter softened

¼ c. packed brown sugar

1 T. cornstarch

½ c. cold water

3 c. sliced peaches

1 c. fresh blueberries

1 T. butter

1 T lemon juice

2 T. coarse granulated sugar

¼. Tsp. ground nutmeg or cinnamon

Directions

Topping:

Stir together flour, ½ c. granulated sugar and baking powder

Add milk and ¼ cup butter all at once

Stir until smooth. Set aside.

Filling:

In a medium sauce pan stir together brown sugar and cornstarch.

Stir in water.

Add peaches and blueberries.

Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.

Add 1 T. butter and lemon juice.

Stir until butter melts. Pour into 1 ½ quart ungreased casserole dish.

Spoon topping in mounds over hot filling and spread evenly

Sprinkle with mixture of 2 T. coarse sugar and nutmeg or cinnamon.

Place a shallow baking pan in oven.

Bake cobbler in 350° oven for about 35 minutes or until bubbly and a toothpick inserted into crust comes out clean.

Serve with ice cream and enjoy!
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Grilled Stuffed Chicken with Succotash

A few nights ago we were stumped with what to cook. I didn’t feel like any of the usual dishes and wanted to try something new. But what? Since I hadn’t a clue and my taste buds weren’t pointing me in a particular direction, I decided to browse the internet.

I found this recipe on the food network and it sounded light, summery, and tasty. It took very little time to prep and despite our fear of stuffing something and then putting it over an open flame, turned out quite nicely. We also substituted edemame for the lima beans.

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It wasn’t a favorite of our son’s, and we could probably think of other things to stuff the chicken with, but boy was it juicy and tender!

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Mid-July Blooms

Right now our garden is a whir of noise. If there is colony collapse still going on in the bee community, it sure doesn’t seem like it.

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Also, the sun seems to be hanging around, which has been lovely. The plants seem to really enjoy it as well. Here are some pictures of the recent blooms in our garden.

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My Food Journey

Throughout my short life, my relationship with food has gone through many stages. I dislike the label “foodie” and therefore refuse to call myself as such. Also, I have never had an eating disorder, but there was a point when food didn’t matter to me.

When I was a kid, I ate to sustain myself. End of story. I was too busy with all of my other interests to be bothered with enjoying eating the food my parents were making me eat. Not that they cooked bad food, although the meat was like shoe leather, I just wasn’t all that interested. There were always moments of pure enjoyment when my mom or grandma would make something I loved. Onigiri and teriyaki chicken, Chow Mein with sekihan, tuna noodle casserole (I have no idea why, but it could be the addictive factor of potato chips, noodles, and a creamy sauce), and beef with Bok choy over rice come to mind. Mostly though, the food didn’t matter. By the way, dessert doesn’t count, because what kid (or adult) doesn’t love a little sugar?

As a young adult I had a somewhat better relationship with food. The first two years of college I lived in a dorm and ate whatever they cooked, for the most part. I had more choices, but nothing helped change my view of food. We are talking about dorm food after all. My third year I moved to an apartment and was thus forced to start cooking. I could boil and egg and knew how to make a few dishes and therefore was comfortable knowing I wouldn’t starve. Besides, just off campus there were a dozen restaurants that catered to the poor college student. One of them, a Korean place, made really good beef bulgogi. To this day it is still one of the best I’ve had. During this time I dated a guy who liked to cook and was quite good at it, although now that I think about it, nothing really stood out. What I do remember eating was a lot of grilled chicken salads because he wanted to lose a few pounds. I did, however, learn how to peel garlic.

After I graduated I moved down to California to pursue a Master’s degree. I became friends with several people in the food science department, and boy did they like to eat and drink. I think this might have been the start of my appreciation of food, but I was still reluctant. My parents would send me grocery gift cards and tell me to not skimp on food. I am thrifty by nature, but they didn’t want me to starve because I was unwilling to spend too much money. It was during this first year that I met my husband. As with all serious relationships, they change you. My husband loves good food and dessert. When I met him he was still coming into his own food-wise. This was good timing since I was just at the outer fringes of discovering the power of food. However, I think it wasn’t until I moved back to my home state for work that I really developed an appetite for good quality food.

I started working as a research assistant on pears and sweet cherries. We worked closely with the growers and that’s when I started to understand the business of growing food. Not subsidized crops, but high-value crops. I began to see how difficult it was to make money, find good labor, and the chain in which the fruit travels before it ever reaches market. When I was in California I often wondered why the produce was so bad since they produce so much good vegetables and fruit. What I learned was that the best quality was sent for export, where the money is. During this time my mom started getting really into food and began trying new recipes. Since I would visit often (my husband was still in California at the time) we would often experiment. It was also during this period of time that I started to get more interested in cooking. After we got married, bought our first house, and got dish network, I stumbled upon the food network. They must be doing something right because it whetted my creative appetite. Armed with a good set of pots and pans, kitchen knives, a couple of cook books and the food network, we started cooking up a storm.

Since then, my husband and I have grown to appreciate food so much more than where we began. I have such a different view-point of food and have learned that food can really bring people together. Price, while still important, isn’t secondary to quality of the product. I have learned to evaluate the ingredients and what goes into producing the food and to really value what I put in my body.

Now that I have a child, I don’t want him to grow up without appreciating food. Last summer, before he started solid food, I went to the farmer’s market to buy the best fruit and vegetables so I could to make my own baby food. I froze it, and when it was time, he loved it. Now he eats everything and loves everything. Sometimes I worry that I’ve created a food snob. But overall, I think it’s better for him to learn to appreciate food and not just eat to quiet the hunger pains. I have to admit that sometimes I eat just to quiet those hunger pains. Whether it is be because I’m just too tired to cook or I don’t know what I feel like eating, I’m not always certain, but I figure that’s okay…as long as I am setting my son up to have a good relationship with food.

Personalizing a garden space: The Beginning

When we bought our house in August of last year the previous owner loved gardening and didn’t mind spending a fortune in plants. Good for me since now I don’t have to buy anything. Not so good, however, because he liked to plant plants on top of others, or under or behind. The more I have analyzed and thought about the design and feel of the garden spaces, the more chaotic it feels. I love all the color, but it is so difficult to weed. I have already worked on a few of the beds in front. I have removed gallons of Vinca and grass that muddled the picture. We also removed three trees that were too close to the house. Now, however, it’s time to work on one of the beds in back.

With my grandmother’s passing in January, their orchard will have to be sold. Originally I had wanted to keep half of it and farm, but we’re just not at a place in our lives where that is practical. It saddens me to my core because it was a place that I loved and found solace in. I wanted that for my son. I wanted to share it with him and have him enjoy it, but in reality, it just won’t be the same without my grandparents. They, and the incredible mountain views, were what made the place special to me. But I digress. On my grandparents land they had several apple trees. Our plan is to graft a couple of the varieties onto dwarfing rootstock and plant them in our backyard. In that way, we’ll always have a piece of them.

Before we can accomplish this, however, we need to remove a stump, and re-grade, which means clearing the entire bed.

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So today we decided to start this process. I picked out a plant, a white hellebore, to dig up. I took a chunk of the plant as well as some new sprouts and planted them in pots. Since I’m not sure of the final plan yet or where I eventually want these plants to end up, I am hoping that they will survive like this. The other large section of the plant we gave to my parents, whom we have designated as the plant rescue house.

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It’s a start. Now I just have to try to root cuttings of a couple of Hydrangea in case they don’t survive the move to a pot.

What a solid week of heat will do

It has finally cooled off a bit, but it still gets hot enough to feel like summer. However, as soon as the temperatures went up, our AC went kaput. Fortunately there has been a bit of breeze and so we’ve been able to sleep with the windows open. It’s not nearly as lovely as it was when we lived in the country and we could hear the stream from across the road, but it’s been nice all the same. I am glad that the repairman is coming today, but that also means that our nice weather will probably disappear.

Since it’s been so nice, most of my time is spent in the garden. My son loves to dig in the dirt and smell the flowers, so that’s where we are most days. Needless to say, if I’m not taking pictures of my son, it’s of all the new flowers that are popping up.

Since my last post, there are a few new ones, and beauts at that. Enjoy!

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