Quasi-Cuban feast from the garden

31 08 2009

Life has been so crazy since the middle of July.  It feels like there hasn’t been a weekend (or many weeknights) when we haven’t had something to do.  The garden has taken a back seat to so many things- moving Matt to the new townhouse, fixing stuff  (slowly) up at the townhouse, having guests, spending time at the Duplex because the kitties went on strike (I was spending too much time at the townhouse) getting ready to go back east… the list goes on and on.  Thankfully the square foot garden is low maintenance, so our plants haven’t suffered too much from neglect.  Back a week or two ago, Matt and I made an impromptu Quasi Cuban feast with leftovers from the fridge and veggies/herbs from our garden.

First up: Mojitos

I planted mint with the intention of makng mojitos- a classic cuban drink (sigh- I loved them since before they were fashionable!).  I found this traditional recipe and went to work.

Fresh Lime Juice, Fresh Mint from the garden- yummm

Fresh Lime Juice, Fresh Mint from the garden- yummm

muddle with pestal

muddle with pestal

some sugar, rum, and seltzer water (in the glass and on my shirt) and enjoy.. yum

some sugar, rum, and seltzer water (in the glass and on my shirt) and enjoy.. yum

Next up: Salsa

The tomatoes are really starting to come in and we have quite a few jalapenos. You know what that means? Salsa!

Matt adapted this recipe a little: Fresh Tomato Salsa

The result? Amazing!

A little watery here but a little cornstarch fixes that

A little watery here but a little cornstarch fixes that

Finally: Grilled Turkey Cuban Sandwiches

We had some turkey and cheese left over and decided to run with the Cuban theme. Trusty Epicurious to the rescue with this recipe. We supplied fresh mint. No Panni press? No problem- the recipe suggested placing tin foil over the sandwiches,then a skillet, and finally place heavy cans in the skillet to weigh down the sandwiches-your own panni press!

Panni Hack!

Panni Hack!

Yum!

Yum!

Not bad!

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Happy Bastille Day!

14 07 2009

2009 Jul 14_0107
In our 2nd annual celebration of the French holiday Bastille Day, BF and I cooked up a french themed feast! On the Menu:

BF put together the menu… from our garden we used thyme, lavender, parsley, and basil.

OMG the chicken is amazing, if you need me to mail you a tablespoon of lavender just so you can try it I will…  Can’t wait for next Bastille day!





In search of the perfect bun

29 05 2009

One of the best things about having lobsters is saving a little extra for lobster rolls.  We saved a whole lobster plus some of the meet from a couple lobster bodies this past weekend.  It wasn’t until I started have annual lobster boils  4 years ago that I realized that the hot dog rolls in the store aren’t the right type of rolls for lobster rolls.  Then I thought back, I can’t remember the last time I saw a proper hot dog roll.  If you aren’t from New England you might be confused. Let me illustrate.

This is you standard Hot dog roll available all over the US

This is you standard Hot dog roll available all over the US

This is a New England style hot dog roll perfect for buttering each side and toasting. the ONLY way to make lobster roles.

This is a New England style hot dog roll perfect for buttering each side and toasting. the ONLY way to make lobster roles.

2009 May 29_0130It’s pretty much impossible to get New England rolls anywhere outside of NE.  BF and I wanted authentic rolls so we did a little web browsing and found a couple companies that would ship you NE rolls… For a cost.  Let’s say a 800% mark up.  It’s genius really.

The rolls cost $1.50 at the local grocery in New Hampshire (The Market Basket in Milford in this case- which is a hoot- it was the town next door to where I lived my first 12 years!) and I- New England exile living in Seattle pays you $12.00 plus shipping to send me those rolls.  It sounds crazy- but we did it and I can’t wait to eat a hot dog tomorrow made the right way. (we broke down and made our lobster rolls last night with the “other” hot dog rolls … so sad).

Just saying… this could be a lucurative business for anyone who has time to run to the grocery store and the post office in one day.  Next time, I might just send some of my New England family or friends a check and ask them to buy me a $1.50 package of hot dog rolls. 🙂





Randomness: house inspection, ft. jackson, and lobstahs

28 05 2009

Here’s the round-up from the last couple of weeks.

House Inspection: We had the house inspection with a great inspector- it took close to 4 hours for a 1100 sq ft townhome!  No red flags, a couple of minor things to bring to the HOA and a couple of things that we’ll want to do in the next year- (like new Master Bath shower and sink- but we planned on that when we put our offer in).

Ft Jackson: BF and I traveled to Ft Jackson, South Carolina for his brother’s basic training graduation.  We had a lot of fun visiting with his brother, sister, and parents.  It was very interesting to see what life is like on an Army Base.  We bowled, tasted some amazing Carolina BBQ, visited with my friend Grizz, and did a little shopping at the PX.  We bought clippers and I gave BF a haircut- pretty easy #2 blade- but I’m just so proud that I didn’t cut his ear!

Lobstah Boil: Upon returning to the Seattle area, we had the 4th annual Seattle Lemire Lobstah boil!  This year I took a page out of my brother’s book and bought a turkey fryer to boil the lobsters in- what a difference! we fit about 8 or so lobsters in the pot all at once.  Returning Lobstah boil veteran- H was a great help to me and my mom in giving the other “novices” instruction.  The weather was amazing and the company of friends was unmatched.  Cassanova spent the whole day outside with us hanging out and he even suckered BF into sharing some of his lobster with him. We had a huge salad made entirely with lettuce from our garden- and it just keeps growing! 🙂  The flowers on the tables also came from the garden, soon we hope to be able to make a whole salad from our crops!





Gardening by the Square

4 05 2009

We decided (Mom, BF, and I) to do a Square Foot Garden this year.  This gardening method has been popularized by Mel Bartholomew in his book  All New Square Foot Garden.  I ordered the book last Tuesday and it arrived on Wednesday. BF and I busied ourselves with learning the system and planning our garden.  I like this method for various reasons, including:

  • No dig, you build a box above the ground and fill with special soil mix (more on soil mix later)
  • The one foot squares make it super easy to see how much you can plant and plan your plantings
  • low maintenance, less weeds!
  • According to the website, square foot gardens take 50% of the cost, 20% of the space, 10% of the water, and 2% of the work.  I’m a fan of all of that!

At first I was going to use the space at the back of the yarn (where I had a small flower and herb garden last year) and a planting bed at the side of the house.  But when we started to lay out my designs and paid attention to the amount of sun that each area got, we decided to abandon the planting bed by the house.  Our garden is completely contained in the back corner of the yard, which gets some decent southern sun. We decided to make two 4×4 boxes, one 2×8 box and one 2×2 box. This gives us 52 square feet of garden! We also decided to put two  5’x4′ trellises on the 8×2 box and one on the front 4×4 box.  The trellises are used for vine plants like tomatoes, squash, cucumber, pole beans and peas.  I also decided to cut back the existing planting bed that i created last year.  I currently had 4 lavender plants growing in the corner. I cut the box back to just be the lavender and added a couple new lavender plants to fill out the box.

The Layout of our Boxes

layout1

Plant Plotting

Laying it all out was only half the fun. After what seemed like 20 iterations (and adjustments for impulse buys when picking out plant starts) we settled on our final plotting of plants.

plants1

We quickly realized that this is a lot of veggies!  How exciting- we might have enough to have fresh salad and veggies every night this summer and also be generous with our friends and neighbors!

Here is the breakdown of the plants we bought.  Almost 150 total plants in 52 squares! wow!

what number we have number per square Squares
Lettuce (Romaine) 2 4 0.5
Lettuce (Spring Salad) 2 4 0.5
Lettuce (Spicy Salad) 1 4 0.25
Lettuce (Grand Rapids) 1 4 0.25
Lettuce (Buttercrisp) 4 4 1
Lettuce (Salad Blend) 8 4 2
Lettuce (Red Sails) 4 4 1
Catnip 1 1 1
Tomato (Early Girl) 1 1 1
Tomato (Stupice) 1 1 1
Tomato (Sungold) 1 1 1
Tomato (Longkeeper) 1 1 1
Tomato (Window Box Roma) 1 1 1
Cucumber (Fanfare) 2 2 1
Cucumber (Sweet slice) 4 2 2
Cucumber (Burpee) 2 2 1
Beans (Pole) 8 8 1
Sugar Snap Peas 8 8 1
Summer Squash (Goldbar) 1 1 1
Beans (Bush) 9 9 1
Swiss Chard 8 4 2
Peppers (Cali Wonder) 2 1 2
Peppers (Cubanelle) 1 1 1
Peppers (Jalenpeno) 1 1 1
Onion (Red Burgermaster) 8 16 0.5
Onion (Walla Walla) 4 16 0.25
Onion (White Sweet Spanish) 4 16 0.25
Radish 9 9 1
Asparagus 6 3 2
Shallots 8 8 1
Garlic (Elephant) 3 1 3
Rosemary 1 1 1
Basil (Genovese) 8 4 2
Parsley (Flat Italian) 3 4 0.75
Chives 1 1 1
Dill 1 1 1
Sage (Berggarten) 1 1 1
Lemon Verbena 1 1 1
Winter Savory 1 1 1
Dahlia (Hello Gorgeous) 4 4 1
Dahlia (Figaro) 4 4 1
Marigold 4 1 4
Dhalia (TBD) 3 1 3

Materials

In order to build out boxes and make our soil mix, we had quite a lengthy shopping list.

Boxes
6”x 2” boards
Plywood (bottoms
Deck Screws
Large washers (to hold the plywood botom in place)

Grids
4’ wood lath boards (for the Grid
Nuts and bolts

Soil (24 cubic feet total)
1/3 Peat Moss (8 cubic feet)
1/3 blended compost (8 cubic feet)
1/3 coarse vermiculite (8 cubic feet) **

Trellis
electrical conduit
¼  inch 2 foot rebar
½ inch elbow connectors
Trellis netting
Zip ties

Chicken Wire Cover
2”x2” boards 4’ lengths
48” wide 2” square Chicken wire
Zip ties

Soil Mix

Perhaps the most difficult item on this list to find is the vermiculite.  Vermiculite has been  a controversial gardening product.  In mining operations, it is often side by side with asbestos.  However, I did research and found that now-a-days great care is taken in the mining process and you can find vermiculite products which are certified asbestos free.   If you still are nervous at the prospect of using this product, it can be replaced with perlite,  but I decided to use the suggested vermiculite.  If you also want to try vermiculite and are having trouble finding it in large bags, call around to your local feed stores (yes, farm supply and feed stores!) they usually carry the large bags.

Another interesting note about the soil mix- you need to use different types of compost- from chicken and steer manure (or as I like to say chicken $hit and bull $hit!) to mushroom compost, vegetable/yard waste compost.  In my quest to find a good blend of compost I purchased some locally produced compost and realized that I helped to make that compost.  I have a yard waste and compost can as part of my garbage service. Its a great service and the yard waste and food I put out at the curb every other week ends up in bags of compost at my local garden center.  Out of all of the compost we purchased the local stuff was the most inexpensive and the best quality.  Since there isn’t much transportation cost, (it’s made one town over) the compost was very moist and fresh (larger companies dry out their compost to reduce the weight of the bag and thus transportation charges.  I thought it was a cool example of how green practices come full circle.

Cost

How much will this garden cost us this year?  I am estimating between $400 and $500 including all materials and plants.  Most of that cost is the one time cost of building the boxes.  If I had decided to do this method earlier I am convinced that I could have gotten materials for the boxes at little or no cost using websites like freecycle or craigslist or by contacting construction sites for scrap lumber.  As it is, I kept cost down by using regular lumber instead of  long lasting cedar.  I could have reduced the cost even more by growing my own starts indoors earlier this spring.

Plants

The most fun part! BF and I had a blast coming up with our shopping list and picking out plants.  I picked up my plants from local Flower world (love that place) and from a community plant sale.  A couple of impulse buys at Lowes and Ace Hardware…

After a long weekend and lots of work, we’re ready to finish up by building the removable chicken wire cage (keep the critters from dining on my plants!) put plants into the boxes.  This project has been fun to work on together and we are both a little sore after all the construction and soil making.   I’ll end with a photo of our befores durings and afters…





Easter Dinner Cook-A-Thon

24 04 2009

Easter was amazing this year (well, it’s amazing every year, but the food was amazing this year). I would have blogged immediately about he cook-a-thon that we did, but I lost all of my Easter photos somehow… The pictures were incredible, but they have vanished into the ether. Easter dinner was Mom, BF, my dear friend H, and H’s BF came for desert.  The only photos I have from the whole weekend are the pictures of the butter that BF and I made.  Yes you heard me right, we made our own butter- so cool.  As with all of the recipes from Easter weekend, we found it online.

BUTTER!

BUTTER!

The Stir Fry Sweet and Savory Asparagus is a simple recipe that my grandmother liked to make.

  • 2 lbs fresh asparagus
  • 2 Tbsps Oil
  • 1/2 Tsp Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 3 Tbsps Water

Cut asparagus into one-inch diagonal pieces. Heat oil in pan and stir asparagus for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook 5-8 minutes stirring occasionally. Serve hot.

We had a blast cooking from morning to night, listening to music and dancing round the kitchen. Hope you enjoy some of these recipes too.





Brown Eggs are Local Eggs and Local Eggs are fresh!

6 04 2009
Brown Eggs are Local Eggs and Local Eggs are Fresh!

Brown Eggs are Local Eggs and Local Eggs are Fresh!

Every time I encounter a brown egg a little song runs through my  mind. “Brown eggs are local eggs and local eggs are fresh!”  Really, it’s less of a song than it is a jingle.  To be more specific it’s a radio advertisement that ran in NH when I was growing up.  It’s catchy and without fail, I think of my brown egg song every time I see brown eggs.  I used to keep the singing of this jingle to myself, but have recently shared it with BF when we are grocery shopping.  🙂  He sings it too now. (exhibit A why I love him- 1. I felt comfortably enough to share this bizarre habit of mine and 2. he gets it.)

The irony?  I don’t eat eggs- have hatted them since I was little. I don’t like the taste or the texture.  I tried once as a teenager to eat them with disastrous results.  My mom swears that I ate them as a toddler- fistfuls of scrambled eggs eaten off my highchair tray.  I must’ve overdosed on them or something.  As you might imagine, this limits what I can eat at breakfast joints- and I love breakfast (yum sausage, bacon, home fries, corn beef hash… eggs yuck).  BF hates that I hate eggs, and has been encouraging me to try them another time as an adult.  I am not sure if I will ever be a full fledged egg eater, but this weekend I went out on a limb and we discovered something- I don’t hate eggs if you mix a whole lot of other stuff with them.

Our homemade egg scramble that can feed an army:

  • 1/4 lb breakfast sausage (bulk)
  • 1/4 lb Chorizzo sausage (bulk)
  • 1 package frozen hash browns
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 stalk green onion chopped
  • 2 Anaheim pepper seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 4 large brown mushrooms- sliced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro chopped
  • 1 cup Mexican style shredded cheese
  • 8 brown eggs
  • Milk (a little more than you would use for scrambled eggs)

Brown the sausage in a very large skillet or wok over medium high heat. Remove and set aside. Add a couple teaspoons vegetable oil, pan fry the hash browns until crispy. Remove and set aside. Pan should have sufficient lubrication- no need to add oil. Saute garlic, onions, mushrooms and peppers until tender but not soft.  Remove and set aside.  Wisk eggs, milk and cheese, pour into skillet. cook until eggs start to firm but are still wet.  Fold in vegetables, sausage, and hash browns. Finish by adding cilantro and tomato. Serve while singing “Brown Eggs are Local Eggs and Local Eggs are fresh!”

For now this is as far into the egg eating world as i am willing to go… but who knows maybe I will work my way up to omelets.