A home for all things crafty, health-conscious, cake-related, or in need of a wagon!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Gardening Update

It's been a little while since I did a gardening update, so I thought I'd show you how things look now, and what you can start planting this week.

I bought these gorgeous chives for $3 at the Redmond Farmer's Market on Saturday. It's not the biggest market I've ever been to, but it was pretty nice; and aside from the lousy weather, there were still quite a few people there.

I love this plant! I just repotted it today. See the pretty new blooms just about to open? The woman I bought it from made me promise to try eating the flowers. I think I'll try them in a salad or something. (I also know that you can dry them out a bit and use them to flavor olive oil. Doesn't that sound pretty?)

Here is my green/peas bed. The peas and beans are doing pretty well, and my Asian greens are going crazy!!

Another bean shot: (and tomatillos in the white square pot. Not too much to report on them yet.)
Peas using shallots to climb (instead of my tomato cage) and some zucchinis. I'm determined to be swimming in piles of squash and peas this year!

Crazy asparagus, still growing (into an asparagus fern). There are a couple more, but this one is the biggest!

Purple kohlrabi. I'm so excited for these! The bulbs are so tasty; sliced thinly, and dress with a tahini/soy sauce dressing. Mmmmm!

Potatoes! Growing in two different pots, faster than I can keep them covered with dirt!

Strawberry/rhubarb patch: some of them are getting berries already!!

Back deck tomato experiment. This is a "Sweet Million" cherry tomato that I got at... um... Top Foods I think, for $3. It's gigantic!! Hopefully, I'll get something close to that number of tomatoes this year....
All this gardening talk has made even the watering can tired. :)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sesame Noodle Salad

I love this salad. I usually make it once the weather turns hot, but last week, I made it in class; and served it with edamame, some frozen veggie gyoza (steamed) and some new "cucumber won tons" from Trader Joe's. All together, pretty easy for a weeknight gourmet meal!

Sesame Noodle Salad

4 oz. soba noodles, (weight before cooking, I use 2 of the pre-measured portions.)
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds (toast in a small frying pan for a few minutes. Don't look away though, or they'll burn!)
1 cucumber
1 carrot
1/2 lb. Chinese snow peas (pea pods)
1/4 cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup peanuts, to toss at the end


1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. sesame oil
3 Tbsp. orange juice
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. soy sauce

In a large pot, cooke the noodles over medium high heat until they are done. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside in a large mixing bowl, and cool in refrigerator.

In a small bowl, mix up the dressing ingredients. Set aside.

Chop up cucumber and carrot into small pieces (or grate carrot). De-string peas, and cut them in half. Take noodles out of fridge, and toss them with the dressing and the sesame seeds. Add the vegetables, including cabbage, and toss again. Sprinkle with peanuts before serving (and more sesame seeds, if you so desire.) Can be served refrigerated or at room temperature.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bento Goodies

Remember this book? I found it again the other day, and decided that it's time to start making some awesome lunches! (This has nothing to do with having more time off, of course....) In order to make the fancy set-up bentos, I had to make a trip to Uwajimaya. Come along with me!

Very cute plastic grass seperators, that you use to um... seperate things. Like foods. In a fancy way. Shut up, they're awesome!

Then I searched high and low to find tiny soy sauce dispensors. They also had some shaped like naked babies, but a.) I did not think my fiance would like that so much and b.) THE SAUCE SQUIRTS OUT OF THEIR HEADS. Both of these led to these little ones, like tiny ketchup bottles and little fish. Much more normal.

Then, I found these. They are some sort of new soy-based wrapper that you can use like seaweed. I do not know if they are tasty, I only know that they were colorful, seemed like they could be useful, and on sale! ($2.89 vs. $5.98 at Fred Meyer where I saw them later. Yeah, I would not have paid that.)

Last but not least, we needed some new containers, preferably ones that are leakproof. These claim to do that, plus are dishwasher AND microwave safe. Win!

See the side-locking bits?

Up next? An awesome Sesame Noodle Salad that you can put into your new bento! (or tupperware, as the case may be.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Farmer's Markets

I love going to farmer's markets. In fact, I will usually only allot myself a certain amount of cash to spend... and then spend all of it. It's like a sickness.

Being that this weekend is the first Saturday that I've been actually free for a long time, I'm planning to go to the Redmond one. Since we moved here last October, I didn't manage to visit this one yet, so we'll see how it is! My other favorite one is on Tuesdays, down in Renton where I used to live. It is fantastic. It's pretty big, the people are nice, there are demos of all kinds of things (including hula dancers once last year) and aside from the expected flowers/fruits/veggies... there are pastries. And tamales. And fudge. And kettle corn. I LOVE this market, and despite the idea of fighting through traffic to get there, I'm totally going as soon as they open next week.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Summertime Goals

There are a few new food-type things I'd like to make this summer. For instance, I have this yogurt maker:

It has been sitting around, sadly unopened, for a while now. In fact, possibly 3 years. (see 3-year warranty on box? Oops.)

My goal is to learn how to use this thing, and then make tasty homemade yogurt. Possibly even Greek style, if such a thing can happen. :)
I also want to:
1.) Attempt sourdough bread- even though I think letting flour and water ferment in a bag is pretty gross, it IS my favorite type of bread, so I need to try.
2.) New ice creams- I've used my ice cream maker several times, but the ice cream is always really soft. Like in the time it takes to pour chocolate syrup on it, it melts. I'm going to play around with it and see what else I can do to make it better. Gelato? Tons of mix-ins? I'm on it!
3.) Bento lunches- I got this very cute book a while ago, and it's time to put it to use!
What new foods do you want to try to make??

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Pasta Primavera

This is (mostly) based on a recipe that my mom made when we were growing up. It takes advantage of asparagus season, and throws in a few other things as well. The problem with it? A ton of butter and parmesan cheese, most likely of the "shaky" variety. So, I've lightened it up a bit, and added some other ingredients for more flavor.

To start you need:

1/2 lb. asparagus
1 red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1/2 an onion, diced
1 cup frozen peas
3 -4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
3-4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup vegetable broth
4 oz. parmesan, grated
8 oz. pasta (here I used frozen filled pasta, but you can use spaghetti or other dried pastas too.)

These veggies are just a loose guideline. For me, I use an assortment of things, but always try to have the asparagus and broccoli for sure. Chop up your veggies:

Saute them in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the butter, and vegetable broth when they start to stick to the pan. Add spices too. Add the peas last.

Cook and drain your pasta. Add veggies to pasta, along with cheese!! Mix well, and make sure the cheese gets all over.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

DIY Sprouts

It is surprisingly easy to grow your own sprouts. Not only are they very tasty, they are chock full of vitamins and good things for you! I first discovered how to make sprouts when I was reading a book by Mary Jane Butters, "Ideabook, Cookbook, Lifebook". She runs an organic farm in Idaho, and has a magazine devoted to "farmgirls". I can only occasionally find it, so I was pretty happy when she came out with a book (I think she has 3 or 4 now). Anyway, I digress.

To start, you need some seeds for sprouting. I use a mixture of alfalfa, radish, and clover. You can get them at natural food-type stores, usually in the bulk spice section. I buy mine at Central Market in Poulsbo. (There's another one in Shoreline, if you're primarily on this side of the water.) I put about a teaspoon of each kind of seed into a clean jar (all together) and fill it with water for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, drain out the water. You can either pour it into a fine mesh strainer, or buy one of these nifty covers made for straining sprouts into a jar. (My mom had one left from the 80's.)
You will now need to rinse the seeds twice a day for a few days. I usually rinse them in the morning, and at night. After about 5 days, your jar will look like this!:

I'm keeping mine out for another day or two, then after that you can store them in the fridge. You want the sprouts to have green bits and also be long enough to eat! I put them on sandwiches, salads, and just had some on a veggie burger tonight. Mmmm...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review- The Backyard Homestead

I just got this book the other day, and it is fantastic! It is pretty much a comprehensive overview of growing just about anything in your yard. It shows how to prepare the soil for most types of plants you'd want to grow, and some you might not have even thought of (wheat? I don't think so, but that's kind of awesome!). It gives specifics for different vegetables, and tips to make them grow the best. You can learn how to prune trees correctly, and charts telling specifically how hearty different plants are. There are also sections on raising chickens, ducks, goats, and cows! All in all, it's a very useful resource, and shows how even on a small(ish) area (1/4 acre) you could grow tons of things to support your entire household. (That's provided that your yard is completely flat and has tons of sun; which mine doesn't. That is a problem for another day though.) I already have discovered that I've planted a few things without proper fertilizing; something I plan to remedy soon!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cilantro-Lime Rice

Remember when I said that this month I'd be focusing on this book? And how you haven't seen it since? The lies are about to end, because last week, I made Cilantro-Lime Rice! It was pretty tasty, until I realized that my plans for having it as a side dish were completely dashed... since we were out of peppers, and the zucchini was gross, mini quesidillas were OUT. So then, I turned it into Healthy Nachos. Aren't you glad I'm so good reinvention??

First, the rice:
1 cup long grain white rice (I used brown, so it still works.)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. lime zest (since I used fake lime juice from a container, I used lemon zest.)
1/4 cup cilantro, lightly packed
1 green onion, green part only, sliced very thinly

You can do this on the stove, or in a rice cooker. (I tried the rice cooker, only to have my rice cooker die about halfway in. I guess it was 13 years old!) In a heavy pot, combine the rice, liquid, olive oil, lime juice, and zest. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and let it simmer until the rice is cooked (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat, and sprinkle with cilantro and green onion.

Proceed to step two, The Chips!

Take about 10 small corn tortillas. Cut them into triangles, and place on a cookie sheet. Spray evenly with cooking spray. Bake in a 350* oven for about 15-20 minutes, until they are crunchy. Sprinkle with salt.

Next, Nacho Assembly!

Chips+ Rice+ Cheese (I also added some black beans to the rice after it was done cooking.)

Microwave for 20 seconds or so, then add:

Tomato and spinach! You could also have some olives, sour cream, salsa, peppers... whatever else you like!! We had some leftover tomatillo salsa, which was great.
Next recipe? Quinoa Salad with Spinach, Olives, and Roasted Peanuts!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

My Parents' Garden

It really isn't hard to see where I get my love of gardening from. My parents have always had a variety of plants in our yard, and usually grow some sorts of vegetables in the summer. I remember when I was little, we had a GIANT garden in our backyard. It was edged with piles of tires, filled with potatoes. We grew corn! And tomatoes, carrots, spinach (which I thought tasted like balloons), squash, peas, beans... just about everything. It was amazing! I will probably never live up to that garden in my memory, but every year I try.

I thought about saying something dorky here like, "My parents' greenhouse is making me green with envy." Aren't you glad I didn't?

It's pretty awesome though. I helped put it together on a very hot day last summer (well, helped some... my dad did most of it, including the gravel, creating a wall, and fencing, etc...). I'll show you the inside in just a second.

Here is a giant strawberry/hydrangea bed. This usually has tomatoes and sometimes squash.

Inside the greenhouse! I've never seen a snapdragon this color before. It didn't "snap" very well for me though. (I always think it's funny to make them "talk"!)

Here's Otis, trying to eat some grass in the corner of the greenhouse. Last night, I saw him using his anteater-like tongue to pull some through the fence. Guess he really likes grass!

Trays of seedlings. Basil. Tomatoes. Squash. Beans. Artichokes. And another snapdragon.

More trays. You can also see a bit of the cool planters that my dad has been making; they have an arm on them, attached to a string, so that peas and beans can climb them. In the other corner are some onions.

Avocado tree, started from an avocado pit from a bag of Costco avocados. I need to get some of those!

Lulu and Sosha, enjoying the sunshine.

Front yard, giant rosemary! (and umbrella to protect new transplanted flowers.)

The pink azalea has apparantly been in our family for over 20 years. My mom got it from her mother-in-law, and it's survived two transplants.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Taming the beasts

Lately I've noticed that the backyard has become a bit... shall we say overgrown with ferns and blackberries? It's really pretty insane. I went from something managable to this craziness:

(You can't really tell how tall they are, but trust me!) I ripped out several ferns that were in the way of the blackberries, but left the ones in the back of them, since John likes them.

4 foot high cobra-like blackberry bushes, and giant ferns from the age of the dinosaurs. Not cool, yard!

Then, I endeavored to make a sort of trellis for the blackberries to climb, in the hopes that I would be able to actually access blackberries, instead of climbing into the bushes and ending up covered in scratches. Yesterday, I bought some giant tomato stakes, and some tough green wire.

I set the poles about 4 feet apart, then tied the wire to them. Then I realized that the blackberries were a bit too far away, so I tied a few to the wire with some velcro and fabric ties.

Here's hoping they'll climb! Then I weeded a HUGE pile of dandelions and gave them to the bunny. She was pretty happy... well, as happy as she gets anyway!

(Muppet with a pile of greens, bigger than she is!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Butterflies, Hummingbirds, and Bees, Oh My!

Every year, I try a few new flowers that are supposed to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and/or bees. Some are more successful than others! I've had a butterfly bush for 4 years that works pretty well for bees, but not so many butterflies. These are a few I'm trying this year:

This is apparantly called "Sea Breeze Fleabane"; not the most appealing name really, but so far it's doing really well, and claims to attract butterflies.

This is Agastache or "mosquito plant", also loved by butterflies and bees. It doesn't look like much, but it smells really sweet, and promises to have flowers by the end of the summer.

This one has the best name of the bunch (Firewitch?!!) and the best price ($2.50 on clearance). I'm thinking about getting another one. Basically all pinks and daisies should help attract The Elusive Three.

This one has seen the most action so far. It's actually called a "Butterfly Blue Pincushion Flower". I've seen bees around this pretty much every day since I bought it! It's supposed to be good for butterflies, and it's supposed to be a perennial- but I've managed to go through two of them so far. They don't winter over very well. I think it was like $3.33 at Lowe's a few weeks ago.
Plants that attract hummingbirds:
Asiatic Lily
Butterfly Weed
Trumpet Vine
Bee Balm
Red Columbine
Plants to attract bees:
Black-Eyed Susan
Purple Coneflower
Plants to attract butterflies:
Pretty much anything else that attracts hummingbirds or bees!
Some tips to attract The Elusive Three to your garden:
Plant a variety of colors: Bees can see a wide range of colors, and will use this to seek out pollen.
They especially like: blue, violet, white, purple, and yellow
Plant flowers in clumps: Similar flowers planted together will make a stronger impression.
Don't use pesticides: These kill good creatures, along with the bad.
Use native plants if possible: Research shows that bees prefer native plants to exotic ones, about 4:1.
Give some shelter and water: Butterflies need places to rest and warm up, and all three of them need to drink! Having a birdbath, and some shadier plants will help all of these creatures want to be in your garden.