Friday, February 1, 2013

Winter Blues? Start a garden.

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The rain has been here for a few months and the dark and dull winter months are starting to take it’s toll on this Oregonian. February is usually when I’m fed up with the cold and start dreaming of those long and warm summer days.

This guy gets me.

I’ve found the best cure for my wintertime blues is to start planning my garden!

I must say up front, I’m no expert when it comes to planning and maintaining a garden. I still have a lot to learn and thought I would outline my process, successes, and failures (and recipes) here. This post and future posts are referring to my small, south facing backyard Portland, Oregon garden. After all, it’s the food from my garden that inspires a lot of my cooking.

Here are a few tips to get your planning started.

Make a list! My husband and I sit down and make a list of everything we want to have in our garden, we don’t always agree on some things so it’s good to put it on paper. If you’re having a difficult time with this first step try thinking about your favorite meals - pizzas, salads, pastas, side dishes, etc. Don’t forget to consider herbs like basil, cilantro, and thyme.

Here is what our list looks like –
Roma Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Sweet Onions, Shallots, Spinach, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Garlic, Kale, Cabbage, Lettuce, Beets, Leeks, Peas, Soy Beans, Carrots, Cucumbers, Beans, Strawberries, Basil, Cilantro, Thyme, Rosemary, and Parsley.

I started my garden planning this year by going through my seed packets from previous years. Turns out I was storing seeds in a few different drawers and had some duplicates and empty packets. To help keep everything organized I found an old recipe box and organized them in alphabetical order.

 Do some research! There are lots of online seed catalogs or local stores with great resources for different varieties. Now is a good time to decide if you will start from seeds or starts. In the past I have tried to start everything from seed but had little success. I think my bad luck was mainly from poor planning. This year I will likely do a combination of seeds and starts, I’ll attempt everything from seeds first but lets be honest, I’ll end up getting a few starts as well.

Today I started my tomatoes, peppers, onions, and shallots. I purchased a basic seed kit and some nice light seed starting soil. I planted and marked the seeds and then covered them with plastic (to prevent water evaporation and keep them warm) and placed them on a heating pad from the garden store to help with the germination process. Hopefully I’ll see some green in the next week or so.

Good luck with your garden planning!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Roasted Blueberry and Chocolate Cocoa Nib Ice Cream

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I know that it has been awhile since my last post but here's why, summer is here and it is warm! My husband goes into a tizzy fit when I try and turn the oven on. We've been living off of kale slaw and tuna sandwiches for a week.

In the northwest we like to complain about the rain 9 months out of the year wishing and hoping the summer will finally come. Then it does and after just one week of temperatures in the 80's we start to complain. At work there is already hopeful talk about cooler temperatures and getting on with the next season.

Our food selection has been nothing exciting until today. Today we finally had a high of 70 and I took the opportunity to roast some blueberries and make a roasted blueberry and chocolate cocoa nib ice cream. Yum! 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Farm and Hazelnut Ice Cream

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Earlier this week we made the drive over the mountains to visit my sister and scope out the town of Bend as a possible place to live. During our too short visit I had the pleasure of visiting the farm my older sister is working on this summer. While visiting the farm, I learned a few things about myself that I didn’t know.

1. I’m afraid of chickens, especially chickens lurking through long grass.
2. I could photograph a pig’s face all day.

The farm is called Great American Egg, it is located about 30 minutes outside of Bend, OR in the most beautiful pasture setting with mountain views all around. The farm sells fresh eggs, chicken, and pork at local farmers markets and even makes a few house deliveries!  I had an amazing time walking around to see all the animals and getting a chance to snap a few shots along the way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Almond Butter Chocolate Bars

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Almond butter chocolate bars, almond butter chocolate bars. Almond. Butter. Chocolate. Bars. No matter how many times I say these words out loud, I know, they are not peanut butter chocolate bars.

Last November I discovered I have a mild peanut allergy. Lately, I’ve been desperate to satisfy my peanut craving.  Only a smooth nut butter will do. This is no simple substitution, as I’m sure some may already know. Nut butters are REALLY expensive. Also, I have been unsuccessful in my search for a creamy almond butter.  So, I have determined I must solve this peanut craving by creaming almond butter with butter and powdered sugar to create a light, airy texture. Butter and sugar make everything better, right? So I bring you dairy free almond butter chocolate bars.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Cilantro Lime Fish Tacos

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Some days when I get home from work I just don’t feel like cooking dinner. After spending 8 plus hours on my feet baking all morning, I loose all desire to prepare dinner in the evenings. Then my husband calls and asks for fish tacos. Fish Tacos! I used to hate making fish tacos because it was too complicated to prepare the fish and the finished product was usually dry.  But not with this recipe, a simple cooking technique is used to free up your time for yummy condiments. Don’t skip the cilantro lime pesto, it really kicks the dish up a notch.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Dairy Free Coconut Ice Cream

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I know it has been far too long since my last ice cream post but it’s not my fault! I’ve made two batches since this last gem and my husband, oh my husband, has eaten them before I’ve gotten any photos! The concept of making food and photographing it before eating is completely beyond him. So I know its not a good an excuse, but it’s all I got. 

So in the last few weeks I’ve have had some things happening in my life, some family things, some personal things, and some things that still need more things. I’m sure there will be more to come on what those things are. But for now, one of those things is my effort to avoid dairy. This whole avoid dairy thing in no easy task! My biggest problem is just forgetting that it’s my goal. I am working on it though so this week I bring you dairy free coconut ice cream!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Simple Roast Chicken

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Last weekend I helped process our first round of chickens for the season.  I work on the “clean” side of the butchering shop.  After the chicken’s head, legs, and feathers are removed, I eviscerate the birds and separate them into leg/thigh, wings, and breast cuts.  I know it is strange, but I actually enjoy this part.  I like the repetitive movements, making clean and smooth cuts, and challenging myself to work faster.  It is probably even more strange that while I am doing this, I can’t help but think about how I am going to turn one of these fresh birds into a feast later that day.  I appreciate roast chicken because it is a simple and satisfying meal.  But I love roast chicken leftovers.  I love barbecue chicken sandwiches, Thai chicken pizza, and chicken enchiladas.  The little bit of time I spend scraping every last bit of meat off a roast chicken is well worth it.  Let’s start with the basics here.