Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Little Orange With That Green?

My tomato plants produced a massive amount of green fruit this season.  I have gotten a couple pounds of ripe tomatoes but the cold summer and fall have really put a damper on how quickly the fruit is maturing.  As leaves on the trees start to color, the morning air is becoming  crisp,  and the rains have returned,  I've decided to pick all the large tomatoes and see if I can ripen them in batches through the fall.

Fried green tomatoes anyone?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Surprise Guests

This summer, my brother gave me some of his old bee boxes and books on beekeeping. I gladly hauled the boxes home from Oregon and was excited to do bee research over the fall and winter, then buy bees in the spring for pollinating my berry plants, vegetable plants and fruit trees.  Of course the bonus of sweet golden honey to harvest later in the summer would be a welcome addition to our kitchen.

bee boxes 

One of the boxes had frames loaded with about 60 pounds of honey which I thought I would replace with new frames in the spring.

Last week while I was at work, my husband called and said one group of bee boxes was covered with bees and they were moving in!

The new tenants

Now I'm on a crash course trying to keep my new hive of bees alive through the winter and have gone from this....

to this.....

I'm feeling excited and a little nervous about my new tenants. If anyone has suggestions on winter beekeeping, please leave a comment.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursdays.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Food Did Happen...

The sunshine hours in the Seattle area were less than stellar this summer, but some fruits and veggies did make an appreciated appearance in the garden. 

Red Gold potatoes

Touchstone Gold

Kristin cherries

The blueberry bushes were well pollinated and produced a wonderful crop of deliciousness and I froze four gallons for making the best blueberry muffins ever all winter long!


My Ladies gardened with me and enjoyed a few raspberries along the way.

chicken acrobatics

My tomatoes are showing signs of bearing fruit and I have harvested about 2 pounds of tomatoes so far. 

I love the color gradation of the grape tomatoes!

And some apples, not many, but some.

Akane apples

New critters did make themselves  known in the garden this season....the voles. I am using snap traps to help our cat with the population control. Voles tunnel under everything making it impossible for plants to establish a root system.  They also take bites out of root vegetables and mow down anything that suits their fancy.

vole hole

The Puget Sound area the farmers markets are a terrific resource of everything fresh and I've been able to buy all the fruits and vegetables that were missing from my garden.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Owl Love

A few mornings ago I heard my hens squawking in a squawk they don't usually make. Then minute later I heard the crows having a loud and boisterous conversation as well. This cacophony of sound pulled me out the house to see what the ruckus was about...Sitting in a tree above the chicken pen was a pair of Great Horned Owls,  so awesome. This is the first time I've seen an owl in our yard and I'm a little uncomfortable that they were watching over our chickens, but all seems well with the Ladies...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Dirty Life: On Farming Food and Love

CSA farmer and author Kristin Kimball has written a wonderful and inspiring memoir about her evolution from complete city girl to gritty committed farmer.  Inspired by an idealistic man and the romantic idea of feeding a community, Kristin embarks on a journey where she learns everything from plowing fields with a team of horses to planting seeds to slaughtering. Her descriptions of how she transforms during her fist year of hardcore farming are completely engaging.

I connected with The Dirty Life: On Farming Food and Love because I related to finding joy and satisfaction in feeding myself, family and friends. Eating foods that I've nurtured and grown always seem to taste better and leave me with a feeling of being more solidly connected to life. Enjoying my urban farming successes along with the struggles keeps me continually planning on improving my gardens and the ability to put delicious food on the table.  The Dirty Life makes me want to run outside, grab the shovel and start digging!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


I recently started cooking with lemongrass and I love it!  This grass is used in many Thai and Vietnamese dishes and brings a citrusy-bright flavor to every dish you can imagine.

Being the avid gardner that I am, I thought this grass would be the perfect addition to my garden. So after hunting around on the internet for growing instructions, it  seems this perennial is easy to grow.....just like the other grasses that seem to pop up in the middle of my gardens.

Start with a bunch of lemongrass that can be found in your local Asian market, cut the tops off and placed the stalks in water. Be sure to choose plants that look like they have some life left in them.

Change the water every couple of days and in 2 - 3 weeks you will start seeing root development happening.

When there is solid root growth, plant the stalks in a sunny location. Remember that lemongrass needs to stay warm all year. I'm planting my stalks in a pot that can be brought indoors or placed in the hoophouse.

Lemongrass is well on the way to producing a fresh crop of deliciousness!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Game On!

Several weeks ago I planted seeds and set them under a grow light in the kitchen. It's been fun to see how quickly the seeds have sprouted and grown.  This is the first time I've started seeds inside and will continue to do starts throughout the next several weeks.  This year I planted seeds from Johnny's Select Seeds, Seeds of Change and the Territorial Seed Company. Seeds I sowed in March are:

Pac Choi - Mei Qing
Onion - Cortland F1
Leek - Scotland
Beet - Red Ace F1
Swiss Chard - Rhubarb and Bright Lights
Asian Green - Green Lance F1
Broccoli - Belstar F1
Kale - Winterbor
Brussels Sprouts - Long Island
Sugar Snap Pea

Today I got to plant some of these seedlings in one of my garden boxes. 

If it doesn't rain tomorrow, I'll be sowing seeds in my garden box with the hoophouse.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Asparagus With Mushroom-Cream Sauce

Asparagus is one of my favorite spring time vegetables and this month it has started arriving in the stores. Yea! I found this asparagus with mushroom-cream sauce recipe in the cookbook Simple to Spectacular, by Jean-Georges Vongerichten & Mark Bittman. This book is about starting with a simple recipe and then expanding the basics into more elaborate creations. As an evolving cook, I have found this recipes in this book easy to follow and feel more confident with my everyday cooking. I do love exploring recipes in the book!

Start with these ingredients and in a matter of 15 minutes you get this! I served this delicious dish with a roasted chicken and a glass of wine. This was definitely a comfort meal for me and fitting as we are still being snowed upon in Seattle.

Asparagus With Mushroom-Cream Sauce
From Simple to Spectacular by Jeans-Georges Vongerichten & Mark Bittman

20 asparagus spears (about 1-1.5 lbs)
1 Tbls butter
1 Tbls olive oil
1 lb shiitake mushrooms chopped
2 shallots peeled and minced
1 C heavy cream
2 Tbls dry (fino) sherry
Chives for garnishing

Cream Sauce:

Heat a skillet to medium-high then add the butter and oil. When the butter is melted add the mushrooms, shallots and salt and pepper to taste. Cook the mushrooms until they have sweated out their liquid and it begins to evaporate. Add the cream and boil gently, stirring until it becomes thick.

For the asparagus:

Bring a pot of salted water (salty like the sea) to boil. Blanch the asparagus until almost done. Drain and keep warm. Spoon the mushroom mixture over the asparagus and sprinkle with chives.

I hope all of you enjoy this very tasty spring time dish!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fruit Trees

The sun came out for a moment and I took the opportunity to run outside and do a little tree maintenance. My fruit trees are semi dwarf and I'm pruning them in shapes that fit the natural growth of the branches. It is really an art to make the trees have a beautiful shape.

The ladder climbing cat needs to help.

I've trimmed off all the dead and broken branches, then any pieces that were crossing or growing straight up. Now with some sun and a little luck there will be bucket loads of fruit!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When Life Gives You Eggs

Now that the chickens are in full swing egg production mode, I've pulled out my Henry Thiele's German Pancake recipe to enjoy a tasty memory from my childhood.

Henry Thiele's was a restaurant in NW Portland many years ago.  My mother use to take us there to eat when we were kids. I was completely surprised when I found the recipe in the Seattle Times in 1992 and am glad to have it today. When eating these, I can remember the delicious smells of the restaurant, the color of the light coming through the windows, the table juke boxes and the warm company of my family.

The ingredients are basics that are easy to find; eggs, cream, flour, salt, butter, powdered sugar and a lemon.

Mix it all together and enjoy!

My pancakes don't turnout quite as fluffy as they should and next time I'll be playing with the amount of cream I add to see if a thinner batter will help the pancakes to rise more. They still taste as good as they did when I was a kid, nostalgia at it's best.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Best Blueberry Muffins Ever!!

I'm in the process of using up my remaining blueberries before the new crop sets in this summer. Muffins are my favorite thing to make with home grown blueberries, and while I have made many a blueberry muffin I have not yet found the perfect recipe, that is until now. My most recent cookbook addition is the Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook, by DeDe Lahman and Neil Kleinberg. In it is the most delicious blueberry muffin recipe in the world. I mean IN THE WORLD! There is just enough sugar, a beautiful cake like texture, perfect moisture content, a lightly crunchy topping and plenty of fruity flavor. When you eat one of these muffins you can't help but smile and shake you head in total happiness.

There are also many other wonderful delights is this terrific book!

Just look at all the berries!

Blueberry Crumb Muffins
From the Clinton St. Baking Company Cookbook

Makes 10 muffins

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (add while frozen)
10 tablespoons Crumb Mix

Crumb Mix

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 stick butter

Place the flour, baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter, then add sugar, and vanilla.  Add the egg and blend until combined. Add half of the sour cream and mix lightly, then add half of the dry ingredients and mix lightly. Repeat the same process with the remaining sour cream and dry ingredients. Be sure to end with the dry ingredients. Fold in the blueberries until just incorporated and evenly mixed. Spoon the mixture into muffin tin and top each muffin with one tablespoon of the Crumb Mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 - 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. 

This post is part of “Simple Lives Thursday”. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Addition

I have not been one to indulge in rhubarb and have never thought about growing it in my garden. It just didn't appeal to my taste bud sensibilities. Until last week, when I had a white chocolate mousse napoleon with rhubarb compote. What a wonderfully pleasing delicious dessert it was indeed. I was so inspired that I went out and bought a couple of rhubarb rhizomes and planted them immediately. Unfortunately I won't be able to harvest any stems this year, so farmers market here I come.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Good Read

I can't believe how fast this winter has blown by. Settling into a new job, a kitchen remodel in progress and spring garden planning has consumed me this winter. I have found a tidbit of time to put my feet up and read Growing a Farmer: How I Learner to Live off the Land written by local Seattle area farmer, chef and artisan cheesemaker Kurt Timmermeister. Kurt narrates  a thoughtful account of his evolution from an enthusiastic novice vegetable gardner to a well seasoned cheesemaker, and live stock and produce farmer. What I found throughout the book is the theme of food bringing people together, a theme very close to my heart.  Told with humor and sincerity, Growing a Farmer is a fantastic read.