Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gardening: Veggie Seeds Day 3-Holy Heat Mat Batman!

I was a little skeptical about the whole heat mat idea but I bought it anyway. In theory, it warms the bottom of the trays and thus warm up the soil and tricks the seeds to germinate faster. Well it's only been 3 days and we have sprouts!!

I'm impressed! Some of the seeds are growing and it's not just one type, it's varied across the board. I'm so excited! This is an excellent start!

Monday, March 29, 2010

What's Cooking?: Miso Soup

Mi-so happy!! I love miso soup! It's so yummy and good for you too! The weather has been rotten the past few days. Last night it was pouring and super windy. I couldn't sleep because of all the racket. It poured again today. Nothing beats a nice bowl of hot soup on a dreary day. My choice today is miso soup!

My sister-in-law makes fun of my miso soup. It's definitely not traditional. I blame my grandma for that. She started it all by putting extra yumminess into hers. Besides the traditional tofu and green onions (she would leave them out for me cause I don't like onions!), she often would add napa cabbage, eggs and sometimes udon noodles. It's a meal in and of itself!

I still make my miso soup like grandma did. The soup I made today included tofu, wakame, daikon and napa cabbage. I made some udon noodles on the side and will add them to my miso for tonight's dinner. This was just a snack. Mmm!!
Before you start making fun of me for my meal in a bowl, just remember all the added nutrition you get from the vegetables! For instance, wakame (a type of seaweed) is high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, niacin and phosphorus. It's also a good source of riboflavin, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. Researchers at Hokkaido University in Japan have also found that a compound found in wakame, called fucoxanthin, can ward off obesity by helping to burn fatty tissue.

Daikon, a type of Japanese radish, is high in magnesium, Vitamin C and potassium. Napa cabbage is high in niacin, calcium, potassium and a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, folate, iron, copper and manganese. And udon noodles....well, they just taste good! =0)

I don't follow a "recipe" for miso soup, but this is sorta how I do it. First, I add hot water to my wakame and let them sit. They are usually dried. Once they re-hydrate, rinse well in a strainer (they are salty) and cut into bite-sized pieces.

I usually buy the udon in the refrigerator section of the Asian market. I get the one with the soup base in the foil packet. I add about 6 cups of water to a pot and add 2 packets of the soup base from the udon noodles. You can also use dashi packets for this. I heat the soup over medium-high heat until it comes to a small boil. I peel and cut up my daikon into rounds and then cut them in 1/2 again to make half-moons. I add that to the pot to cook. I also cube up my tofu (usually using about 3/4 a block of firm tofu) and dice up the napa cabbage (about 1/2 a small head of cabbage). I add this to the soup and let it cook for a bit. Next I add about 4-5 Tbsp. of white miso paste to a cup or bowl. I pour the hot soup liquid into the miso and mix it until it is clump-free. Add more soup to make it thin. Add the wakame to the pot and then the miso. Turn off the heat and mix well. **Do not boil soup once miso is added**

I sometimes add the udon noodles and cook for about 3 minutes until they are done but it usually sucks up the soup stock. Cook the udon noodles seperately and just pour the miso soup over the noodles to serve to prevent this.

You can also add hard boiled eggs to your miso soup. When your soup is boiling (and before you add miso), you can bring it to a rapid boil and drop raw eggs into it to hard boil. Reduce the heat and continue your soup from there.

It's a great yucky weather cure!

Gardening: Spring Vegetable Seedlings

I'm finally getting a start on my spring vegetable garden starters. I'm a little behind the game on planting by seed. However, I looked to see when I started last year and it was the first week in April. So really, I'm ahead of the game. I have high hopes for my vegetable garden this year. Last year I got a lot of help from my dad. He really has a green thumb. My thumb is mostly black so we'll see how this goes without him.

I spent some time thinking over my vegetable garden for this year and came up with a list of veggies that I was interested in planting. I also did some researching on the internet about companion planting and rotating crops. much to think about.

This weekend I went to the local nursery and picked up some strawberry starters. I am going to replant my strawberry jar from last season. My beautiful strawberry plant died when I went on vacation for 2 weeks.

I got some June-bearer Hood and some day-neural Tribute Strawberry starter plants. The Hood strawberries are the ones I rave about each summer. They usually fruit early in June and I literally rush to the Farmer's Markets for them. They are so sweet and yummy! They don't freeze well (because of the high sugar content) and don't last very long before getting squishy. I thought I would give them a try this year. Because they only produce in June, I decided to also get another type that would produce throughout the summer.

While at the nursery, they already had a lot of starter vegetables. I spotted some pea starters and decided to just buy them instead of trying to grow my own from seed. These go in the ground early in the season (as they start to die back when the heat comes). I decided the head start with the starter plants from the nursery would be a good thing. I picked up both sugar snap peas and snow peas. Yum!

I also got my herbs. I found dill, mint, curled parsley, rosemary & oregano. I also decided to try garlic this year just to have some on-hand.

I spent some time looking up seed companies. Here were some of my favorites on the internet:
Kitazawa Seed Co. (great selection of Asian vegetable seeds; love love love their Chef Specialty Gardens!)
New Dimension Seed (local-Scappose, OR; Asian vegetable seeds)
Burpee (great selection of seeds and plants)

I found a lot of the ones that I wanted locally. Fred Meyers had a sale on seed packets this week, buy 2 get 1 free so I stocked up there. I bought some of the more common stuff like tomatoes, beets, lettuce, peppers and carrots. I also found the Kitazawa Seeds locally at Uwajimaya. The New Dimension Seeds were at Fred Meyers (not on sale). I really liked the Asian veggies so I decided to spend the extra money to buy these specialty seed packets (on the plus side, I did save in shipping).
So this is what I ended up planting today in my first pass for early spring starters:
1) Gourmet Lettuce Blend-Ed Hume Seeds
2) Red Trooper Spinach-New Dimension Seed
3) 1/2 Gai Lan/1/2 Bok Choy
4) 1/2 Gai Lan/1/2 Bok Choy
5) Green Delight Baby Bok Choy-New Dimension Seed
6) Emerald Gai Lan-New Dimension Seed
7) Oregon Spring Tomato-Ed Hume Seeds
8) Roma Tomato-Lily Miller
9) Millionaire (Japanese Hybrid)-Kitazawa Seed Co.
10) Tiger (Thai Hybrid)-Kitazawa Seed Co.
11) Shishito Pepper-Kitazawa Seed Co.
12) Marconi Rosso Red Pepper-Hume Organic Seeds
I also spent extra money this year and bought a Seedling Heat Mat. It's like a heating pad that you place under the tray that warms the soil and helps with germination. And yes, I did NEED it. I could use all the help I can get!
Now I sit (im)patiently for my little seedlings to start growing.

I still have to prep the raised beds. I peeked outside and there are weeds in there. However, it was way too windy and rainy today. Maybe this weekend will bring sun and I'll get out there.

Here's to the 2010 Vegetable Growing Season. What are you planting this year??

Monday, March 8, 2010

Trying to finish blogging about the Greece Trip

I noticed I only told you about 1/2 my trip. EEEKK!! Sorry to leave you hanging! I've been uploading pics and blogging but to make it all flow, I back dated the posts so they would all be together. So if you're interested in reading more about Greece, Here's the start of a 3 part post on Day #6. HERE

I'm working on the rest!!