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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What's Cookin?: Roated Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Who doesn't love a good side of mashed potatoes. I love mine with roasted garlic. Here's a quick and easy recipe I love!


Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

2 lbs. potatoes
1 head of garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 c. sour cream
4 Tbsp. butter
milk or cream, as needed
salt
pepper

1) Cut off top of garlic head (about 1/2 inch) to expose the tops of the cloves. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place head of garlic on aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly with foil and place in a pan or cooking sheet in the oven. Roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2) Peel and boil potatoes in salted water until tender. You can cut them into fourths and boil for about 15 minutes if you are in a rush.

3) When garlic is done, cool. They should easily come out of head. Just squeeze from the bottom and they should pop out. Mash roasted garlic in a bowl with a fork.

4) When potatoes are cool enough to work with, mash in a large bowl.

5) Put potatoes, garlic, sour cream, butter, salt and pepper in a mixer bowl. Add some milk or cream and whip at medium speed until smooth.

6) Continue to add milk or cream until you get desired consistency. Serve while warm.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Composting, Composting, Composting!!

Call me compost-stupid but how exactly do you compost? Okay I know I live in Oregon and everyone does it here. Am I the only one who doesn't know how? Since I'm pretending to be a gardener, I thought I would try the composting thing a whirl. Where to start? I did a lot of research on-line. Gotta love Google!! I also hit up friends for their thoughts and pearls. After feeling a little more confident, I decided to take the plunge.


So it seems pretty easy and straightforward, save up your kitchen scraps and tada....you make great dirt! Basically the food scraps that you have leftover from preparing meals or after meals can all be composted and turned into really great fertilizer for your garden. It's best mixed with garden leaves and a little grass clippings. How was I supposed to know that I was missing out on all this?

Along my web surfing, here's a partial list of things that can be composted:
- Kitchen greens (fruit scraps, vegetable scraps, houseplant cuttings, coffee grounds, rice & pasta, egg shells & tea bags)
- Kitchen browns (coffee filters, stale bread, paper napkins & towels, dryer lint, hair (ew ew ew!!)
- Yard greens (flowers, vegetables, plant trimmings, hedge clippings, small amts of grass)
- Yard browns (leaves, straw or hay, small twigs/chips, dried grass and weeds)

Here are things that should NOT be composted:
- meat, fish or bones, dairy products, oils/fats, sauces, ashes, pet waste, diseased plants, mature weeds with seeds

One tips is to chop larger items like watermelon rinds or corn cobs into smaller pieces before putting into the compost. It speeds up the degredation process.

My first project was a worm composter. They sell fancy ones online on a variety of different websites like this one: http://www.abundantearth.com/store/canoworms.html. These are quite spendy. I was ready to scratch the idea when I found websites that show you how to make one at home from scratch! These were super cheap alternatives! I used these directions to make my bin (http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/Easywormbin.htm).

For about $5 I bought a large plastic bin with a cover from Target. I actually bought 2 of these (one for using later, you'll see how to use a 2nd bin to transfer worms later). It was really easy to do! I used shredded newspaper & paper to make them a nice home. I added some dirt to the top also.

Now...where to find worms? I found a nursery locally (Pistils Nursery on N. Mississippi) that sold red worms by the pound. Yes, I actually bought worms (my dad thought I was crazy!). I settled for 1/2 lb. of red worms. I wanted to start off in tiny baby steps! I'm not sure how my experiment will turn out and I'd hate to have killed a pound of worms....so I settled for 1/2 pound. Ewww.....gross huh? I refused to touch them. I'm such a girl!
I've had them for a few days now and they're doing well. Well at least I think...how do you know? I wish they would tell me if they don't like their new home!

For good measure (and since I have some yard debris also), I looked into a home composter also. After searching various sites and local businesses, I refused to pay more than $40 for a plastic bin. Finally I found out that Portland Metro sells composters for a real deal! They have Earth Machine Composter that hold about 80 gallons. I picked one up and have started composting!

I keep an empty paint can on the sink and as I cook and find food I would normally throw in the trash, they go in my bin. When the bin starts to smell icky or fill up, I toss the scraps into the big composter. Hopefully in a few months, I'll have some great food for my plants!!

If anyone out there has some tips or comments, feel free to leave them. I'm still learning as I go along! Cross your fingers for my worms. Hopefully you can't really kill 1/2 lb. of worms, right? Right?

Some of the references I used:
http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/Easywormbin.htm
http://www.pistilsnursery.com/worm-composting
http://www.oregonmetro.gov/index.cfm/go/by.web/id=557

Saturday, May 16, 2009

What's in your garden?

I've been trying to take pictures weekly of my plants. It amazes me how well some have been doing! Here are a few of my favorites....


These little purple guys are so pretty!
These are strawberries that I bought for my deck. They're doing well! I'm waiting (im)patiently for these ripe berries!
Here's one of two peonies I bought this year. When I got them they were pathetic looking. They've done so well in my yard! The scragglier one of the two actually grew to be a lot taller then this one! Oh and look....I see a bud forming!!

I bought two fruit tree this year and thought I would give it a go. We'll see how well they do in the ground. I bought a dwarf mandarin orange and a plum tree.

I bought tomato plants as starters this year. I didn't have the patience to wait for the seeds to grow. I love tomatoes!!

Here's some various herbs I have for cooking...




So tell me....what's in your garden this year?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Seedlings

This year I started some vegetables from seeds.  I was a very diligent momma, constantly checking on my seedlings....waiting for some for of life.  There was that AHA moment when the first green shoots poked out of the dirt!!  Be still my beating heart!  I have grown something!!  


Here's what I planted this year for my garden....
Basil
Bok Choy
Spinach
Green Beans
Lemon Cucumbers

Oh and I also planted a bunch of flower seedlings.  Awww....look at my babies grow!!  

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What's Cookin?: Chicken Hekka



It's Chicken Hekka night!! Okay, so I thought this was a Japanese dish but it turns out it's not a "real Japanese" dish. It's just one of those Hawaii dishes...you know what I'm talking about. It's one of those dishes that blend different ethnicity's into a bowl of yumminess. So I would guess Chicken Hekka is probably part Japanese, part Chinese and part yummy!

This is a recipe I came up with after taking the good and doing away with the bad from several different versions. This is my version in all of it's yummy goodness. Enjoy!


Chicken Hekka
1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. soy sauce (I like Aloha brand shoyu)
1/2 c. mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
1/4 c. sake (any brand will do)
2 Tbsp. oil
2 inch piece of ginger, chopped and crushed
1 med carrot, julienned
2-3 green onions, cut into 2 inch strips
1 (14-16 oz) can baby corn, cut into bite sized pieces
1 can bamboo shoots, sliced
8 pieces dried shitake mushrooms, soaked and cut into pieces
2-3 pkg long rice, soaked and cut into 3 inch lengths

1) Soak shitake mushrooms in a small bowl with hot water (be sure to save liquid in case your long rice sucks up all your liquid). Soak long rice in a separate bowl of hot water.
2) Slice chicken into bite size pieces. In a bowl, mix sugar, soy sauce, mirin & sake together - set aside.
3) Chop ginger and crush and set aside. Cut up vegetables and set aside.
4) In a large pot or wok, heat oil to medium-high heat. Add ginger pieces and saute until flavor is released.
5) Add chicken and stir fry until chicken is cooked. Add sauce mixture and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Stir frequently.
6) Add the following, stirring well after each addition. Carrots, green onions & baby corn. Cook for a few minutes at a boil.
7) Take out ginger pieces and toss. Add bamboo shoots, mushrooms and long rice to the pot. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. If your long rice ends up sucking up your liquid, add some reserved shitake mushroom water. Simmer for 10 minutes or until done. Serve with hot rice.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Planter Boxes



So I told you my dad was visiting and I had a "Daddy Do" List right?  Well this was one of the things on my list.  My dad is really good at building things.  He built this nifty raised planting bed for my vegetable crops!!  


Sorry the pictures are so dark.  It was threatening to rain.  Thank goodness he finished just in the nick of time!  Hopefully I have a green thumb and will have a good crop this year!

Seed Sale

If you're a gardener who likes to grow from seeds, it's your lucky day!  Park Seed Co. is having a sale on seed packets.  Most are on sale for $1 or less!!  Stock up!  They have a great selection of seeds!  Here's the link:


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What's Cookin?: Slow Cooker Pot Roast and Vegetables

What's not to love about slow cooking? Put the ingredients into a Crock Pot in the morning, putter around all day and come home to a wonderful smelling kitchen and dinner that's all ready! I did a slow cooked pulled BBQ pork last week. I thought roast would be a good thing to try. I found a few different recipes but only had a few of the components in my pantry. Instead, I elected to combine and alter a few. Here's my take on a Slow Cooked Pot Roast....


Slow Cooker Pot Roast and Vegetables

3-4 lb. bottom round beef roast
ground black pepper, to taste
garlic powder, to taste
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 pkg. McCormick's Bag n' Seasoning Pot Roast Mix
1/2 c. water
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can beef broth
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
3 stalks celery, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 potatoes, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces

1) Start by slicing up your vegetables.
2) Season roast with black pepper and garlic powder. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Brown the roast on all sides for about 20 minutes.
3) Mix together Pot Roast Mix, water, beef broth and cream of mushroom soup. Place roast in slow cooker and arrange vegetables around the meat. Pour liquid mixture over roast and vegetables.
4) Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

**Comments: This recipes turned out really well for my improvisions. It's definitely an easy recipe that I would make again. I would, however, make the following adjustments:

- Prior to browning roast in pot, season with salt (I usually use Hawaiian salt). I would also use whole cloves of garlic and slice holes in the roast and insert them in the roast for added garlic flavor
- Omit 1/2 cup water (I mixed the Roast Mix in water before realizing I had beef broth). I would mix the Roast Mix in just 1/2 can of beef broth instead and maybe use 2 cans of cream of mushroom for a thicker gravy.

Hmm...I had a photo to post but for some reason my memory card didn't capture my images from the other day. Drat!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I watch too much Travel Channel...

....I really must.  Have you seen that commercial on the Travel Channel?  You know which one I mean.  The one where all the different show stars say that they have the bug.  Yeah, I told you I watch too much tv.  Well I went to the website.  There's a choose your own adventure type quiz on there.  In the end it tells you your travel bug evaluation.  


I'm an Explorer.  My personality: organized, intuitive, sensitive (mind-blowing combination...no I didn't make this up), quiet, determined and occasionally freaks people out.  My travel bug effects: aversion to the beaten path, lingering sensations of a dream come true & sunset-related goosebumps.  My treatment destinations: Road Trip USA and Bali.  Anyone wanna go with?  

What kind of travel bug are you?   http://www.ihavethebug.com/

Travels: Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm

One of the big clues that spring is around the corner are all of the bulb flowers that start blooming. Daffodils are usually the first clues to warm weather. Next are usually the tulips and irises. I love going to the Tulip Festival at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm in Woodburn during the spring. It is an amazing array of every type of tulip you could imagine! They literally have acres and acres of flowers in bloom! The scenery is spectacular!

We took a drive out there on a Monday. I was thinking with people working and going to school, it wouldn't be very crowded. I've been there on the weekends and boy it is packed. It's like going to Disneyland except it's out in the country. My plan was to avoid the crowds! You wouldn't believe how many people pack in to see the farms.

Lets just say I was fooled. Apparently everyone else thought a Monday would be a good day to visit the Tulip Festival. The line of cars waiting to get in was longer than I had anticipated. The fee was $5 per car (on the weekdays). We drove up and parked in the parking lot/field.

We walked around and visited most of the fields. There's lots of food stalls, gift shops, cut flowers and games for kids to keep you busy. They also take orders for the bulb flowers you've seen in the fields on-site. They have rides in wooden shoe carts and lots to see and do.

The showing of tulips was spectacular! They were all in full bloom while we were there. There's also amazing views of the mountains in the distance. There's lots of cheesey photo ops. I won't bore you with my take on these. I will have you know though, that I squeezed my tushy into a wooden shoe for a photo. Yes I did!

I love the character and rich colors of each of the blooms. It was impossible to pick a favorite. Here were a few of my top picks!
I always enjoy the tulip fields! I never seem to get bored. Looking forward till next year!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

What's Bakin?: Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies (aka Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies or Heaven in a Cookie)

If you were on a deserted island and could only have 1 cookie, what cookie would you choose?  I don't know about you, but for me this would be a very very tough choice!  Well not anymore thanks to this awesome cookie recipe!!  It combines 3 of my favorite cookies all into one.  So to answer the original question.....give me an Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies please!!!  These are sooo good I had to give some away just so I wouldn't eat them all!!


Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Joan posted on www.allrecipes.com

1/2 c. butter
1/3 c. white sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. semisweet chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Cream butter, white sugar and brown sugar in a bowl until smooth.  Stir in the peanut butter, vanilla & egg until well blended.  
3) Combine flour, baking soda & salt in a small bowl and stir into the batter just until moistened.  Mix in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed.  
4) Drop by tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes (more like 10 min) or until the edges of the cookies start to brown.  Don't overcook!  Cool on cookie sheet for about 5 min before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.  

**Makes about 4 dozen cookies (3 if you made the mistake of sampling a few and 1 if you have to give them away because you're afraid you'll eat them all!)**

Sunday, May 3, 2009

POTD/Project 365

I have a few friends who have been good about honing in on their photography skills.  They've managed to set a goal of taking at least 1 picture every day of the year.  It's called POTD or Photo of the Day.  It's also referred to as Project 365 (for the 365 photos you'll have taken at the end of a year).  


I've been meaning to use my camera more for everyday events.  I used to journal in high school but in this day and age putting a pen to paper is....well...time consuming.  I love taking a photo and letting it tell a story.  

I'm using the site called Shuttercal for help.  It's a calender format.  You just upload 1 picture a day and it creates a mosaic of all of your photos.  I love the visual it creates!  I also love how it'll help hold me accountable for each day!  

Sounds like fun right?  Come on and join me!  I'll show you my calender if you show me yours!!  

Restaurant Rambling: Biscuit's Cafe

After working up an appetite wandering the stalls of the Farmer's Market, it was time for brunch! We decided on Biscuit's Cafe. That was mainly because in my effort to maneuver all the one way streets in downtown, I missed my turn and ended up having to get onto the freeway. DOH!

I've talked about Biscuit's before. It's a great place where the servings are monstrous! I usually get their corn beef hash but decided against it today. My dining companion opted for it though. It is sooo good!

I was feeling a little biscuits and gravy-ish. I spotted the perfect solution on the menu. I went with the Country Benedict - buttermilk biscuits, sausage patties, 2 poached eggs smothered in sausage gravy. It was sooo good! It totally hit the spot! Three cheers for breakfast!

Farmer's Market: Lilacs & Irises

Ahhh...it's Farmer's Market season again!  I love perusing the markets!  My usual Beaverton location isn't open yet.  I opted to visit the Portland Farmer's Market downtown at Portland State University.  There are mostly cut flowers, starter plants and green veggies right now.  

I love lilacs so I couldn't resist this stall.  Look how pretty they are!  They smell wonderful too!
Irises are another weakness for me.  I just love the deep purple ones.  These were 6 stems for $5.  I got some that weren't quite open yet and brought them home.  They ended up blooming later that day.  So gorgeous!

Among my other finds were some dried plums (prunes), baby bok choy and asparagus.  Yum!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Restaurant Rambling: Five Guys

If you're a vegetarian, turn away now! If you're a person that loves a good hamburger from time to time, read on!

I've driven by this establishment for a while now. I've also heard the buzz it created. People were very excited that a Five Guys chain was coming to Oregon. I've never heard of Five Guys. It's been open for a while on Cedar Hills in Beaverton. Apparently it is a very popular burger chain on the east coast.

What's all the hubbab about? Well of course I went to check it out with someone who is a burger connoisseur. Burgers are served as regular or little. Believe me "little" is misleading. The regular burgers are double patties. The "little" ones are single patties. I got a little cheeseburger. My dining companion chose the little bacon cheeseburger. Fries come as regular and large. I was going to get a large to be shared but was told the large serves 3-5 people. WHAT?? A regular feeds 2-3. LOL...make that a regular please. You also get to
choose your toppings for your burger. I got lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, ketchup and grilled mushrooms.

The burgers were yummy but the show stopper were the french fries. Damn were they good! My burger judge also thought it was a good meal. Even after I finished by burger and was sooo full, I continued to munch on fries. I couldn't help myself! Just so you know....I ate that little pile of fries below multiplied by 100! They were that good!


Five Guys Burgers & Fries
2606 Cedar Hills Blvd
Beaverton, OR 97005
(503) 430-8748
www.fiveguys.com

Friday, May 1, 2009

On The Road Again...to Greece!


I've been debating about a trip to Europe this year.  My #1 wish list trip is Spain and Portugal but not knowing any Spanish is terrifying to me.  My passion for Spain has been further fueled by the show "On The Road Again".  Have you seen it?  I'm addicted!  


I hate Gwyneth Paltrow.  Okay hate is a strong word...I never cared for her and she irks me.  Who would have ever though in a million years I would want to be her?  If you've seen the show you know what I mean.  Gwyneth is on a road trip around Spain with Mario Batalli and friends.  They are literally eating their way (and drinking a whole lotta wine) through Spain.  I'm so jealous!!  I wanna be Gwyneth!! **EKKKK, did I just say that out loud???**

Anyways, not knowing Spanish made me chicken out of my #1 wish list destination.  Instead, I settled for another European destination on my top 5.....GREECE!!  I've always wanted to go!  I was talking travel with a friend and she's never been out of the country and has always wanted to go to Greece.  From there it snowballed and we're planning an adventure together.  It didn't help when I priced tickets that they were super cheap!  $700 round trip.  SOLD!  

So this week I took the plunge and bought tickets to Greece.  The tentative plan is to do a part mainland excursion (Athens, Olympia, Delphi, etc) and then a sea excursion (Delos, Paros, Santorini & Crete).  I'm so excited!!  

This is a photo of Santorini.  Ahhh....I wish I were sitting there enjoying the view right now!
Picture taken from www.theora.com