Monday, January 31, 2011

What's Cookin?: Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary and Sage

Again going with the Rosemary and Sage theme, I roasted up some quickie red potatoes.

Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary and Sage

6-8 small red potatoes (or about 1 1/2 lbs.), quartered into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 c. olive oil
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2) Combine all ingredients into a medium bowl and toss to coat potatoes.

3) Pour potatoes onto a baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring at each 10 minute mark to prevent burning. Remove from oven and serve.

What's Cookin?: Rosemary & Sage Pork Chops

I was in Costco the other day and they had a in-store special. Their Top Loin Pork Loin Boneless Chops were $4.00 off a tray. I ended up with a 5.33 pound tray for $11.94. These pork chops are thick!

I looked for a new recipe to try for my pork chops. I had recently harvested some rosemary.
I also had some fresh sage in the refrigerator (store bought) that I had bought for another recipe but never used. I have never used sage in cooking before. In fact, I can't really say that I remember ever tasting it before. I took it out to inspect. It's fuzzy and soft. It's a little like lamb's ears. I have to admit that the smell of sage didn't really inspire me at first.
I found several recipes with pork and sage. I took the best of a few and made up my own. One of the recipes called for 2 cubes of beef bouillon. I thought I had it but only had 1/2 a cube. I ended up using it and 1 1/2 c. beef broth. In the future I would add 1 cube beef bouillon and 2 c. beef broth. I think this recipe would be amazing with some mushrooms too!! I also added my rosemary for extra flavor. I have to report that this recipe is a real winner! I was in love with the sauce. Although uninspiring alone, sage really ties the sauce together! I encourage you to try this recipe out. It's definitely a keeper!

Sage & Rosemary Pork Chops
Serves 4

4 thick boneless pork chops (I used the ones from Costco; if using thinner chops, alter cooking times)
flour for dusting
salt and pepper
olive oil for frying
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 small onion, sliced into slivers
2 cloves garlic, minced
mushrooms (optional)
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cube beef bouillon
2 c. beef stock
1 1/2 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
cornstarch (to thicken)

1) Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge pork chops in flour and fry in a large saute pan or dutch oven (with lid) in olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook until pork chops are browned. Remove from the pan to a plate.

2) In the left over olive oil, add butter and melt. Add and saute onions & garlic until the onions are translucent. Add mushrooms (if using) and saute until cooked. Add chopped rosemary to the pan.
3) Add beef stock and beef bouillon and stir sauce well. Add pork chops back to the sauce. Cover with lid and simmer over low heat for about 35 minutes (for thick boneless pork chops). Stir occassionally and flip pork chops once during the cooking process.

4) After 35 minutes, remove pork to a plate. Turn heat to medium-high and add chopped sage. Reduce sauce to thicken. If it doesn't thicken to your liking, mix a small amount of cornstarch with either leftover beef broth or water and mix until lumps are gone. Pour cornstarch into boiling sauce and mix well to thicken.
5) After sauce thickens, taste and season as needed. Add pork chops back to the sauce and heat through and serve.

Gardening: Harvest Monday 1/31/11

After discovering that some of my herbs had survived, I decided to plan a menu utilizing these yummy treats. Today I snipped a few branches from my Rosemary plant.

Whole Grains Council International Conference

This year's Whole Grains Council International Conference is being held here in Portland, Oregon. You can find the agenda and conference highlights here. The conference is from

Monday, January 31st - Wednesday, February 2nd at The Nines Hotel.

While browsing the council's site, I found this printout very helpful since recently I've found myself experimenting with different grains.

Being a mostly rice girl, I've been experimenting with grains such as bulgar, couscous, quinoa & wheat berries. So far all experiments has yielded yummy results! Give a cheer for those whole grains!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

PROJECT: Save the Bees (Looking for participants)

I was recently inspired when I was asked by a fellow gardener to share her friend's melon seeds with other gardeners around the country. It was fun to share seeds, in the hopes they would find a new happy home in a garden across the country.

I was at New Season's today (I really should stay away from the seed section!!) and saw a new seed display for Seed Savers Exchange. I receive their catalogs and they have a lot of awesome vegetable seeds! I browsed, but told myself I didn't need any more vegetables. However, the flowers were beautiful. One packet struck me. It was called Bee's Friend. It's a German flower called "bienenfreund" that literally translates to "bee's friend". It's said to be a huge attractant for bees in the garden.

I think most of you gardener's out there have heard about the plight of the bee and talk of colony collapse. I'm not sure if it's a coincidence or my imagination, but I also believe locally I am seeing less and less bees in my garden. As a vegetable gardener, I know the importance of keeping the bees happy. I thought it would be nice to start a little project to save local bees (of all kinds) in our communities.

My idea is simple. I bought a packet of bee happy flowers at the store today for $2.99. It has a ton of seeds in it....way more that I would ever need. I'd like to offer some of my flower seeds to fellow gardeners in the hopes that they'll either plant it in their own gardens to encourage the bees in their community and/or share them even more! Hopefully by doing a little thing, we can help the bees!

Maybe someone has already done this on the web before but if not, I'd like to ask all my blogging friends to participate (if you are able to). I know many of us are busy preparing for the season with other seeds. But I'd like to encourage you all to play. Besides, it's a great cause!!

To participate, I'll post again about this project again in 1 week (Sunday, February 6th). Between now and then, I'll figure out how to add a linky link so that if you choose to participate, you'll be able to link your post also. I think it'll be cool to see what parts of the country (or world) benefits from this. To participate in PROJECT: Save the Bees, this is what you'll have to commit to:

1) Purchase a seed packet of bee friendly flowers & figure out how many people you'd like to share with
2) Announce the project on your blog/website & offer seeds to others on Sunday, Feb 6th
3) Link back to my post (to be posted Sunday, February 6th)
4) Mail your seeds to your people
5) Update your original post with a list of places you mailed your seeds to

Doesn't it sound like fun? It should be easy peasy and just think of how many bees all over the world that will be happy this spring and summer. Not to mention how great pollination rates you'll have on your vegetables!

So, are you in???

Using the Summer Canning Bounty

I've been reliving summer every time I dig into my summer canning stash. I'm so glad I canned this past summer. It's been great having these handy in the pantry!

I still have some salsa left. Nachos are my favorite midnight snack!

A little healthier snack is some home canned peaches with Greek yogurt.
I also had some dilly green beans with my tuna sandwich the other day. One of my goals this season is to experiment more with canning. Anyone else have things that they preserved over the summer that they're enjoying now?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Gardening: January Seedlings - Day 6

These were the seeds I planted last weekend. I've been pleased by the results.

Here are the Copra onions just starting to get their grow on.

This is my first season growing onions from seed. I love how they loop up out of the soil, then spring up with the seed attached to the end. Fascinating!

Here are the second batch of Walla Walla onions. I have noticed that the Walla Wallas are quick sprouters. They grow quicker than the Copras.

Most of the Walla Wallas have already sprung from the soil.

These are Outredgeous lettuce. They're growing quickly.
Ahhh, I love how pretty newly sown seeds look. Just like babies, they all tend to look alike but as they grow, they develop their own characteristics.

Still no sign of celery. I'm not too worried at this point because I've heard it can take a few weeks. I'm patient....for now.

My windowsill Jiffy greenhouse has done well despite no bottom heat.

1 of the 4 cells of Red Trooper spinach has begin to sprout. As I mentioned in my previous post, I was unsuccessful in growing this Asian spinach last year. If these don't sprout, I'm going back to my tried and true Tyee spinach. I hope this spinach takes my threat seriously!

This is the Red Sails lettuce.

I'm excited that the Mizuna managed to grow despite the fuzzy looking seeds a few days ago. Mizuna looks very much like other Asian greens as a seedling.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bay Leaf Shoots

I just noticed my bay leaf plant is growing tender shoots. Cute eh?

What's Juicing: Pineapple Powerhouse

I bought a pineapple and when I finally cut it open, it wasn't as sweet as I had hoped. I decided to try to juice it. I love pineapple juice. Why not give it a try? Mmm...the pineapple juice made this drink a real treat. It's sweet (but not too much) and fruity. Delicious!!

Pineapple Powerhouse

1/4 pinapple
4 carrots
2 apples
2 stalks celery
1 beet
3 leaves of kale

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Instant Gratification

I love planting lettuce because it's a surefire way for a gardener to get instant gratification. They're always so quick to germinate. It's only been 3 days since I planted these romaine lettuce and they're already sprouting. I love it!

These are the mizuna (asian greens) that I seeded. They're looking a little fuzzy. Oh oh! I may need to reseed them. I hope they're not a total bust!

Gardening: Growing Onions from Seed - Day 17

It's now Day 17 into my onion growing project. My onion seedling continue to droop. I did read about cutting them back to 2-4 inches tall. I didn't think it would be so soon but I decided what the heck.

This is before their haircut:

As you can see, they're all curled up and tangled. Be very gentle when you're untangling them. They're very fragile!

This is after their haircut:

They're still a bit droopy but hopefully this will help and not hurt their growth. I read that cutting them back helps the seedlings concentrate building up a healthy and strong root system.

I was a little encourage by the fact that some of the seedlings were growing extra leaves. This has to be a good thing...right?

This is the leftover shavings. I guess they were due for a trim eh? I've heard suggestions on adding them to salads or soups. I wish you had smell-o-vision. They smell wonderful (and I don't even like onions)! I may try them on a baked potato (like chives). I'm not a raw onion fan but eat them cooked. We'll see what I come up with.

I guess this maybe a harvest huh? LOL! I guess I'll link up to Daphne's Dandelions for this one!

Monday, January 24, 2011

What's Cookin?: (Meatless Monday) Roasted Kabocha Squash and Kale Pesto Pasta

I've had this kabocha squash for a while. I've been contemplating what to do with it. I was going to make a roasted squash pasta but came across a recipe for Pasta with Kale Pesto and Roasted Butternut Squash in the NY Times. I decided to use the kabocha for this. I didn't have the pine nuts so I left it out.

This turned out to be a wonderful vegetarian dish. It's perfect for another Meatless Monday!

Roasted Kabocha Squash and Kale Pesto Pasta
Adapted from a recipe at

1 1/2 pounds kabocha squash, peeled and diced into 1 inch pieces
extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper
1 small bunch (about 1/2 pound) lacinto kale, center ribs removed
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts
2 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
zest from 1 lemon
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp. salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
8 oz. pasta (like penne)
grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut kabocha in half. Scoop out seeds and either discard or save them for toasting. Slice kabocha into 1/2 moons about 1 inch thick. Remove green skin by cutting off (it can be tough). Then slice kabocha into 1 inch pieces and place in a medium to large bowl.

2) Drizzle with olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss well then spread on a baking sheet in one even layer. Roast in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Be sure to stir every 10 minutes to evenly cook. Once done, remove from oven and cool.

3) While kabocha is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of iced water on hand. Drop kale into the boiling water and cook for about 45 seconds. Transfer kale to the iced bath when done cooking. Bring the water in the pot back to a boil (add more water if needed) and cook the pasta according to package directions.

4) Drain kale in a colander. Remove to a dry kitchen towel and squeeze thoroughly to remove any excess water. Roughly chop leaves.

5) In a food processor, pulse together kale, pine nuts, garlic, salt and lemon zest until the mixture is smooth and salt has dissolved. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in 1/2 c. olive oil until it is fully incorporated. Taste and add more salt if needed. Add lemon juice and pulse a little while longer to mix well.

6) Drain pasta then coat with the kale pesto. Serve pasta topped with roasted kabocha squash and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

Gardening: More Vegetable Seed in the Mail

I got more seeds in the mail this week. These were from Territorial Seeds and Baker's Seeds. I was lucky enough to split the shipping with a friend.
Buyer beware, Territorial's shipping is killer ($7.95). However, if you plan on placing an order with them, I have a coupon for 10% off your next order (expires 2/28/11). If you're interested, leave a comment and your email address and I'll give you the coupon code.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Gardening: Growing Onions from Seed - Day 14

It's day 14 of my growing onions from seed project. They look a little weepy. I did an internet search and everyone else's onions stand straight up.

Maybe it's because they're getting too little light or too much? I brought them inside today and set them on the windowsill. It's a little cloudy today but I thought a little natural light may pep them up. Anyone know what's wrong? Hopefully I didn't kill them 2 weeks into the project. Heehee. Stay tuned....

Addendum: After doing some online research, I realized I made a rookie mistake. I had left the grow lights on continuously. DOH! In hindsight, I should have realized that too much light isn't good for plants. These seedlings maybe a goner as from what I read, they may start to "bulb up" too quickly. However, I came across this website that says to grow onions for competition, they subject seedlings to artificial light 24 hrs a day for the first 6 weeks (YIKES!). In any case, I'll see if these are viable.

Gardening: Sowing January Seeds

I decided to sow a second batch of Walla Walla onion seeds today. Remember how I said I was only going to try one variety to see how it went before trying others? Well, I lied. I happened to be in New Seasons the other day and they had some Territorial Copra Onion seeds. I caved.

I planted 9 small cells (5 seeds per cell) of Copra Onions and 9 small cells of Walla Walla Onions today. These are the tiny onion seeds.

I also decided to plant more seeds since I had all the stuff out. I planted some Utah celery seeds (shared by Jessica). I've never planted celery before and since I gathered info on them, I'll write that up into a separate post. These seeds were super tiny. I soaked the seeds overnight in warm water, then planted them.
I also planted some lettuce. These are lettuce seeds.

Utah celery (6 large cells) & Outredgeous Romaine lettuce (6 large cells).

I soaked some Asian spinach seeds overnight in the refrigerator (per package instructions). I thought I'd give this variety another try. I had bad luck with this Red Trooper Spinach last year. None of my plants made it to harvest.

I also planted some Mizuna seeds. They're also tiny like poppy seeds.

4 Jiffy pods each of Red Trooper spinach, Mizuna & Red Sails lettuce

Anyone else starting to plant seeds indoors? What are you planting?