Thursday, March 29, 2012

These Moments- X and more

I ran out of letters this week, so I had to get a little creative. Next month's theme is Color. I can't wait!

X is for...

Almost an X.

Y is for Yardwork

A little before and after of Phase I.

Z is for Zipper

I played with a new app.

Handwritten Letters


Going Greek - Pi


...and this is one I took today, I just HAD to throw it in here because I am so excited that I conquered the Towhee this year.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adding a hyperlink into a Blogger comment

I have always wondered how to do this and now you will know, too.

Follow this format to change text to a hyperlink in a comment so people can go directly to your personal post from your comment! Replace the red parts with your information. Happy hyperlinking!

<a href "URL"> Text </a>

Example: <a href ""> Mental Chew </a>
will end like this: 
Mental Chew

If you want it BOLD use this format:
<b><a href ""> Mental Chew </a></b>
Mental Chew

Photobucket...and blogging tips!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow? {March 27, 2012}

Well here we are! I am so excited to be writing this post and to see who joins me in this process. Feel free to join / observe / comment / question anytime.

Here is what made it into the ground this weekend:

Since this is my official first post for this event, I will tell you what we have in the ground at this moment:
  • Asparagus
  • Carrots
  • Chard
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Onions
  • Peas - Shelling and Snap
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries

Nothing is ready to eat...but the following are sprouting from seed now!

  • Peas...YES, the peas made it this year without any Towhee interference, courtesy of some serious netting. I found that if I left the netting a little long and placed long boards along the base, the little thieves birds couldn't get in there. Originally, I had put up the string trellises which was like a welcome sign to a bird buffet that protected them from larger predators. Safe AND a full bar. When I just stretched bird netting down to the soil, they found their way into the bed and cleared me out. This is my best lesson learned from last spring and summer.
  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots (from the fall)

I have placed my metal trellises over my wine barrels. Spinach, peas and radishes were planted there two weeks ago. Over the trellises, I have placed every bamboo stake in my possession in various positions. Someone told me that raccoons don't like getting tangled up, so I am hoping this is doing the job and it is keeping the birds away from the seeds. The sticks have been found spread here and there several times, so I am just hoping they are doing their job. Fingers crossed.

    This weekend we were able to finally get in and really work the garden. The sun was shining, the air was cool against our cheeks and we had our favorite tools in hand. For me, that would be my trowel (which I bent...grrr) and for the Good Apple, it was his chain saw (he was doing some BIG work).

    As I was digging my hands into the loose and loamy soil and as the GA was clearing space for more garden space, I found an unrelenting gnarl tightening in my gut about what to do about our deer and raccoon situation. We invest in our garden because it is important to us. Last year, we lost strawberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes, squash flowers and peas to their bellies and it was heartbreaking to come out and see another stem topped off. We are trying these little smelly contraptions around our tulips since they already started eating those and they are just green shoots at this point. I placed chicken wire around one bed, where the garlic and onions live, to keep the raccoons out and we placed bird netting over the other where I had just planted seeds. I am pretty sure we are going to drape bird netting over all of our beds, I am just really worried that this will happen again despite our best intentions. I am open to any suggestions. We don't have the funds to fence the area and well, I just don't think I will be turning into a hunter anytime soon. Any other ideas?

    I have to admit that it felt wonderful to push the straw aside and see rich, dark brown soil with earthworms wiggling their way through below. Onions were such a huge success for us last year, it just felt good to get them started again. I dug my parallel trenches: one deep for fertilizer and the other shallow for the onion bulbs. The bundle provides enough starts to create a single row in each of our larger beds when they are planted 4" apart. If you want to grow some for green onions, only 2" is needed. In that case, you harvest every other for green onions, which leaves 4" spacing for the onions that will be left behind to mature. When planting onions, you do not want to fertilize them directly, but by digging a parallel trench at about 4" deep. You want your fertilizer to have a middle number that is at least double the other two. For example, 10-20-10 would be adequate. This represents N-P-K or Nitrogen - Phosphorus - Potassium. Last year I added Fish Bone Meal (3-18-0) to the trench and had great success. This is also why I put up the chicken wire. You see, that fish bone meal smells pretty good to raccoons. We have learned that the same is true with Blood Meal.

    That was this week in a nutshell. Did I mention that these came in a special package while I was planting the onions?

    German Butterballs, French Fingerlings and Yukon Golds. The potato boxes were cleaned out and the potato bed is waiting. The box was moved to our pantry so the seed potatoes could grow some eyes. This concept freaked the Lil Man out, but I quickly explained. Phew! Disaster averted. (Had I thought about it for a moment, I would have delivered a more clever response that would have kept him out of the pantry.) We did well with potatoes last year as well and when it came time to unearth the little jewels, he thought it was better than hunting for Easter Eggs.

    The sunshine has left and we are due for a week of rain. At least that means, I won't have to water this week! Highs will be in the low 50s and the predicted low for the week is 41 which will keep us out of the frost zone.

    Now here is the part I have REALLY been waiting fellow green thumbs, HOW DID YOUR GARDEN GROW this week?


    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    Weekly Menu - Week of March 26

    This week the Good Apple was allowed to choose some of his favorites for dinner since it was his birthweek. It's a big birthday, so he gets the entire week. After some inspiration from friends last week and digging around the freezer a bit, here is what we came up with for our menu. 

    French Market Soup, fresh bread and green salad from Mental Chew

    This is a family favorite from the Good Apple's side. His mom vacuum-packed packets of beans and garni bags for Christmas two years ago and we just worked our way through the collection. This is one of those recipes that used to allow you to throw in everything but the kitchen sink. While that is still the case, the main flavor source is the meat, without a doubt. To save some money, buy bulk beans and then create vacuum packs for later or to share with a friend or two.
    I have a feeling this is going to be our last hearty soup for this year. We had a little snow and hail to bring in spring, but I am over it. So there. Here is the recipe for this flavor-packed soup. Be prepared, it takes 6ish hours, but it is absolutely delicious and even better the next day. The recipe makes at least 10 servings. We got just a little more out of it. French Market Soup is great for back-to-back dinners or warm lunches throughout the week, which is what the GA opted for!

    French Market Soup
    • 1 lb of mixed dried beans (black beans, pinto, white beans, red beans mix)
    • 2 tablespoons of mixed Italian spices - made into a cheesecloth garni
    • 12 cups of water
    • 2 local hamhocks
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 large can of organic diced tomatoes
    • 6 celery stalks, chopped
    • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 2 large onions, diced
    • 1 organic turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced
    • 2 organic boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
    • 1/2 cup red wine

    1) Wash and drain beans. Add water, salt, hamhocks and spice garni bag. Simmer covered for 3 hours.
    2) Add tomatoes, celery, garlic, and onions. Simmer uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, until creamy.
    3) Add kielbasa and chicken. Simmer 45 minutes.
    4) Add parsley and red wine (pour yourself a glass). Simmer for 15 minutes.

    Serve hot and it is best the next day. It is perfect with a sprinkle of freshly grated parmesan and a chunk of hearty bread.

    Kalua pork from La Fuji Mama (recipe) Taco-style
    I cannot say enough about how easy this is. We had a busy evening scheduled, so the night before, after doing the dishes. I just stabbed the pork roast, rubbed it down with salt, threw it in the slow cooker on warm and poured a tablespoon of liquid smoke over the top. 16 hours later. Dinner. I pulled it apart in a skillet and fried it up a bit using it's own juices and we turned it into delicious tacos with avocado slices and salsa. Too easy. Quick note, this week I used a pork loin roast and it was significantly leaner. I am definitely going to use them in the future.

    Roasted Veggie Pasta and Green Salad from Mental Chew
    Another incredibly easy night.

    I cut up 4 carrots, a head of broccoli, 1 red onion, 10 cloves of garlic and 4 zucchini. I put them in a large bowl, poured 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil over them and a little salt and pepper and mixed them around. Then I placed them on a parchment lined cookie sheet in the oven at 425 for 10 minutes and broil for 5. Meanwhile, I made some of our favorite penne pasta and warmed up a jar of Muir Glenn Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Sauce. To assemble, place pasta, then veggies, then sauce and top with some freshly grated Parm. Sooooo tasty.

    Grilled Teriyaki Chicken Breasts, Steamed Broccolini with Balsamic Vinegar for dipping and Brown Basmati Rice
    Yes, another FAST FAST night 
    First, I started the rice in the slow cooker. Next, I poured some Soy Vay Veri Veri Teriyaki over the chicken breasts just before throwing them on the grill. While they were cooking, I steamed the broccolini. For serving, I cut up the breasts and threw mine over mixed greens with the broccolini and drizzled the balsamic over the top. For the kids and GA, I cut up the chicken and served it with rice and broccolini with balsamic in ramekins for dipping. 

    BBQ Chicken Pizza and Green Salad from Mental Chew
    I feel like I cheated this week. Every night was SO easy.

    Pizza recipe (adpated from the Bread Bible). 
    Makes 1- 16" pizza

    • 1 cup warm water
    • 1 tablespoon active, dry yeast
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1 tsp of salt
    • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
    • 2 1/2 - 3 cups of organic bread flour
    • cornmeal for dusting
    • 2 chicken breasts
    • 1/2 c Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
    • 1 cup mozzarella

    1) In mixer bowl, pour in warm water and sprinkle yeast over the top. Mix in until it dissolves and then mix in honey. Wait 10 minutes or until it is frothy.
    2) Add in salt, olive oil and 1/2 cup of flour. Using the paddle attachment on level 2, gently mix and gradually add flour until it forms a ball that clears the side of the bowl.
    3) Switch to hook attachment and knead for 3 minutes on level 5. The dough should be elastic and keep a finger imprint when touched.
    4) Remove the dough from the bowl. Lightly grease the bowl with olive oil. Place the dough back in a and cover for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, until it has tripled in size. 
    5) Preheat oven to 500, 20 minutes prior to bake time. If you are using a stone, warm it in the oven.
    6) Remove the dough from bowl and stretch it into a circle. I like to sprinkle a little cornmeal on my marble slab and use a rolling pin to get it started. Place on a cornmeal sprinkled paddle or cutting board and brush with olive oil. 
    7) Add toppings. In this case, Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce, thinly sliced red onion and 2 previously cooked chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces. Sprinkly 1 cup of mozzarella over the top. Place on hot pizza stone for 10-15 minutes. Watch it carefully.

    I like to make my crust diameter a little wider than necessary. I brush the sauce out to the end and then fold it back over like a galette. 

    *Sweet Baby Ray's has high fructose corn syrup in it and is one of the only places HFCS lives in our house. I am always looking for an alternative. Any suggestions?

    Potluck with Friends
    Spinach salad with avocado, carrots, craisins, feta and poppy seed dressing
    They offered BBQ chicken and edamame

    Grilled steaks and Bang Bang Cauliflower from That's So Michelle.
    You will be seeing this one often. This may now be considered the GA's favorite meal.

    1) Stop by and check out the salad recipes that are compiling at the OXO Salad Spinner Giveaway and post your favorite salad recipe in the comments for a chance to win your own.
    2) TUESDAY is the beginning of "How Does Your Garden Grow?" I hope to see you there. This weekend is a big gardening weekend for us. The onions and potatoes arrived!!!  Also, some plants are finally sprouting up, so I will have something to take photos of, finally. Will the peas make a showing? You will have to wait and see.

    Friday, March 23, 2012

    These Moments Q-W

    Q is for Quintessential Nicaraguan Food

      R is for Rain Clouds

    S is for Sheep, Skunk Cabbage and Sunsets (what a trio!)

    T is for Trick

    I was walking downstairs and thought our garden bed was on fire! After a moment, I realized it was the reflection our wood stove fire on the window. Yes, this was before I had a cup of coffee!

    U is for Ukulele

    V is for Viola

    W is for Water (on World Water Day!)

    1) Stop by and check out the salad recipes that are compiling at the OXO Salad Spinner Giveaway and post your favorite salad recipe in the comments for a chance to win your own.
    2) TUESDAY is the beginning of "How Does Your Garden Grow?" I hope to see you there. This weekend is a big gardening weekend for us. The onions arrived!!!  Also, some plants are finally sprouting up, so I will have something to take photos of, finally. Will the peas make a showing? You will have to wait and see.

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Share and Get Your Salad Spun!

    Salad greens just bring out the fresh taste of a garden. Those earthy nibbles with dressing and a few of these and those added and you have my favorite salad. It is that simple. A little crunch, a little sweet, a little zip, and ooooooh some of those. Perfection in a bowl or on a plate. But please, no soggy lettuce. It is such an insult to the salad-eater's mouth. The texture goes from crunchy to squishy, just like that. Spin it. Please spin it.
    The generous folks at OXO have given me another chance to spoil you. This time it is with one of their incredible salad spinners, so you won't have to eat soggy salads. If you have been following me for awhile, you know that I have a deep appreciation for what this company has to offer. Their attention to Universal Design wins me over time and again and their salad spinner is no exception.

    Last summer, the Lil Man loved to grab the greens from our garden and place them right in the strainer bowl. He was able to do the washing, spinning and, most importantly, the eating of the salads. It is hit-and-miss when we try to feed him salads, but when he is in charge of the greens it is a slam-dunk. We introduced green beans to him this same way. Previously frozen, no way. From the garden, spun and steamed. All net.

    Another cool thing about this spinner, not one that is advertised, is that you can use it as a traveling salad bowl. You see, the spinner top locks down and you can remove the strainer. Pretty handy.

    The easiest way to use the spinner is to gather your greens and then give them a couple of good rinses through the strainer. Then I like to prep them. Tear or cut them into bite-size pieces and give them a couple more rinses. (I cannot emphasize the importance of sorting and rinsing enough. Yes, I had a tiny slug make it's way into my salad bowl after a rapid rinse and that is all I am saying. That is ALL. Organic gardening at it's best.) Insert the strainer into the spinner, place the top on and then push, push, push the plunger down and let'er spin. You would be amazed how much water this thing removes! Good ol' centrifugal force put to use in the kitchen. Then there is a handy little brake you use to stop the spin-o-rama.

    Fresh from your garden items you can rinse in the spinner:
    :: Lettuce
    :: Kale
    :: Chard
    :: Spinach
    :: Berries
    :: Herbs
    :: Peas 
    :: Green Beans

    Here are some of the features and benefits:
    :: Easy, one-handed operation
    :: Patented pump mechanism and brake button
    :: Clear lid lets you see inside and comes apart for easy cleaning
    :: Non-slip ring keeps bowl steady on countertop
    :: Basket and non-slip bowl can be used separately
    :: Bowl capacity is 6.22 qts; basket capacity is 4.95 qts
    :: Top-rack dishwasher safe
    :: BPA free

    Enough Enough. I know you want one now. Well guess what. They sent me TWO and I already have one. So that means I need to give them to YOU. How you ask?

    Well, the Good Apple came up with this one. He is pretty great that way. The Lil Man has been asking us what our favorite food is, every night, you know the way a 4 year old can. The GA had the good sense to change it up and ask, "What would you eat 3 nights a week if you could?" Everyone gave their responses and I said a variety of salads. Really. That threw him. He is a carnivore who eats what I cook. If the menu planning was left to him it would be homemade Mac n' Cheese, Chili and BBQ Chicken every night. Is your heart still beating?

    How to enter
    In the comments section, write the recipe (or leave a link) for your favorite salad. Then I will make them and the family will choose their favorite. One will be sent out to a reader somewhere in the US and the other will stay in the San Juan Islands. 

    This giveaway will be open until Friday, March 30th at 11:00PM PST.  I can't wait to see what you come up with!!! Winners will be announced during the third week of April.
    Just look for this button on the sidebar 
    to come back and leave your favorite salad!     

    Previous OXO Giveaways: 

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Next Week! How Does Your Garden Grow?

    Next Tuesday is the start of our weekly gardening gathering, but as you learned last week, I am not a very patient person. So, how's it going in your garden? We have had a lot of wind and rain and some snow. The peas are still in hiding, however, the radishes have popped through as of yesterday. Thank goodness. We had a moment of sunshine so I ran and made a somewhat impulsive purchase of 21 violas and pansies. The Lil Man chose the plants and where to plant them. This was a first and I had a moment of uncertainty when he started, but the beauty is that the entryway flower pots are his creation and a treat to see when we come home.


    This weekend will be full of garden work and some more planting, so stay tuned and...what is growing in your garden?

    Radish sprouts


    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Weekly Menu - Week of March 19

    This week was different from most, the Good Apple was gone all week and as it turned out, of course, I had a sick babe on my hands. My wonderful island friends family brought us into their homes for dinner. I was so thankful for the reprieve and it was a good reminder to return the favor to friends who are on this road solo. It was a tough, humbling experience. 

    The pictures were lacking this week because, well, I just couldn't pull it together. I DID capture Friday's dinner because I HAD to. It is one of our favorites and I can't wait to write it up. 

    On the subject of pictures, I hereby declare that I will no longer ruin your palette with yellow toned photos. If they are yellow, they will not get posted. That's all there is to it. Now, this is going to be more easily achieved between now and September because there will be sunlight at dinner time. So basically, there are no excuses. Just sayin', throw me a reminder come October that you don't like to see yellow food. Sorry!


    Monday- Grilled chicken breasts marinated with Trader Joe's Soyaki sauce*, steamed broccolini with balsamic vinegar served over greens and rice. Yum! (Did I mention the hot fudge sundaes with homemade whipped cream? Thank you A.S. for making the dessert run and making the sundaes with perfect whipped cream).

    Tuesday- Turkey meatloaf, roasted potatoes and carrots, spinach salad with oranges, craisins and blue cheese crumbles. Dessert here too! Blueberry Streusel Pie. Num num num. 

    Wednesday - Ravioli with Muir Glen Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Sauce, sautéed zucchini and garlic (from last summer's garden!) and green salad. 

    ThursdayChicken Enchilada Soup from Mental Chew A good friend tried this recipe and suggested adding lime. GREAT idea!

    Friday- Nicaraguan Dinner, this is one of our favorite meals and it is always made with love by one of our favorite family members. Pork with Achiote and Lime, Cabbage salad with a vinaigrette, and Dirty Rice (beans and rice). 

    SaturdaySesame Noodles, again. We had just returned back to the island. We were tired. I was exhausted to be honest. This time I used Yakisoba Noodles and it was just as good, if not better. 

    Sunday - out to dinner for the Good Apple's 40th birthday at Roche Harbor's MacMillan Room
    Check out this menu: 

    Cave-Aged Maytag Blue Cheese Salad - America's oldest working dairy crafts this naturally aged cheese. Garnished with toasted slivered almonds, hardcooked egg and Maytag Blue Cheese.

    Potato-Crusted Scallops with Smokey Bacon-Onion Relish (from the menu) Alaskan Weathervane scallops lightly breaded with potato, then seared golden. With Rain Shadow greens topped with smokey bacon-onion relish around our Yukon Gold mashed potatoes.

    AND dessert. We will be rolling out.

    The kids stayed home with a sitter and ate a lasagna I had in the freezer, made by one of my island angel friends. 

    Next week, it is all the Good Apple's choice since it is his birthweek. Hold on to your defibrillators, here we come.

    *Trader Joe's Soyaki is also known as SoyVay on other market shelves. We even saw it at Costco this week. (We stocked up on organic chicken and turkey!!!)

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    These Moments J-P

    This week was a challenge in so many ways. The Good Apple was away and Lil Miss was having rough nights, so most days it was all I could do to get a photo posted. There were silver linings when I needed them, thank goodness.

    J is for Jam

    This is the freezer jam we made last summer. The Lil Man wanted to make sure the "R" for raspberry showed since it is his favorite. I have to admit that I panicked a bit when I took this photo 10 jars left and we started with 36. Jam in yogurt, jam on bread, jam and cream cheese on bagels, jam in crepes, jam on pancakes. We eat jam and the supply is dwindling. Every time it is spread, a little bit of summer is shared.

    K is for Kung Fu Master

    Guess who's idea this was? It was difficult to take these shots. I was laughing so hard and he was soooooooo serious about it. I ended up creating a series of 8 shots. Check these out if you need a chuckle.

    L is for Little Lemon Lover

    What can I say? She loves lemons. While eating lunch with friends, we were discussing "L" possibilities when this was suggested. I dove for my iPhone waiting for the sour face and this was as close as it got, she loved it!

    M is for Motorcade

    This was one of those shots you literally "walk into". I was coming up with dozens of options on a dreary, windy day and this just made me giggle as we walked upstairs. I love that Filmore was getting a police escort.

    N is for New Growth

    I went outside, camera in hand, just hoping to find some pea shoots. Nada. However, I did find that my Dogwood was feeling Springy. I took about 20 shots and none of them really did it for me. I love the color and the lighting on this one, but the background is just too busy. Bah.

    O is for Optimism

    After posting the previous day's photo and not finding the new growth I had been hoping for, I was feeling a little punky. The weather here had been all over the map: warm and sunny, cloudy and rainy, cloudy and windy and rainy, snowing, hailing. And that is just in three days. As I was getting the Lil Man off to school, I saw this little daffodil burst open while it's neighbor stayed closed for business and I felt optimistic for the sunny days of Spring. I love these little reminders that the windy, stormy days will pass.

    P is for Pastrami and (San) Pellegrino

    Whenever we put our car in line for the ferry, we head up the hill to one of my favorite eateries on the island. Market Chef never disappoints, I mean never. Today's sandwich was Pastrami and I always get a Limonata. The kids enjoyed their Mac n' Cheese and stirfryed broccoli, carrots and mushrooms. Yum. Oh, and it happened to be a "P" here is the lovely Pastrami for you to drool over.

    Q, R, S, T, U, V, W are next. Any ideas?







    Wednesday, March 14, 2012

    Signs of life

    Last fall, I planted 50 cloves of garlic. Today, they are the green in my garden. The perimeter of my beds will have either garlic or onions. Stinky plants keep a lot of critters away. Today, I am feeling optimistic about the possibilities.