Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cold Frame Raised Bed 2

It's down to crunch time and I had to get my plants into the cold frame. Too bad it was still raining. I geared up in my rain gear and sloshed outside in the cold. I managed to prepare this bed all nice and cozy.

Baby Bok Choy (these are my favorite)

Tatsoi (top) and Pac Choi (bottom)

Mizuna and Red Trooper Spinach (top left corner) and Swiss Chard
Whew! Now they'll keep warm with the cold frame shut tight. I hope they'll be okay!
I was going to plant the kale in round pots but since I was running out of time (and was cold and wet from being outside), I recycled this lettuce planter from last season. I stuck as many kale as I could inside. I'll thin once I see if they survive the cold or not (this is uncovered). I went with 2 different types of kale this year. Lacinato kale and Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch kale.
Happy Planting!

First Cold Frame of the Season Planted

This is the result of de-weeding, de-mossing and amending the raised beds. I was able to sneak in my first planting of the season before it starting raining. These will be covered by a cold frame and left to work their magic.

I've managed to get in the plants just in time. They were looking like they needed more room to grow. Here's about 5 broccoli. I realize they don't have adequate space but I was in a rush. I figured I'd let them do their thing then move them when they get bigger.

Here are my Gai Lan.

These are 2 kinds of Chinese cabbage. The ones in the back are a larger variety and the ones in the front are a mini cabbage.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Weekend Project-Preparing the Raised Beds

Ick! This is what happens when you leave your gardening beds for the winter and don't clean up after the growing season. Because of the rains in Oregon, I almost always have moss in my garden beds. The one upside of moss is that it's really easy to weed. You just pull out the moss and the weeds usually go with it. It's a little like pulling out carpet, but easier!
Among the weeds, were some overwintered lettuce. I tried to salvage the lettuce to replant once the beds were cleaned.
Cleaning out the gardening beds was a slow process, as it rained off and on throughout the weekend. During dry breaks, I pulled a little at a time. After de-weeding and de-mossing my garden beds, I turned the soil. I found some icky grubs that I drowned in water. I'll feed them to the robins. They'll love that!

I amended my raised bed soil. After turning the old soil, I added a layer of compost and turned it into the old soil. For good measure this year, I also added some chicken manure. I turned the chicken manure into the soil and voila, a fresh bed to plant my vegetables in. I'll show you that tomorrow.

Harvest Monday 3/28/11

My windowsill lettuce box seems to be doing well. This is my second harvest of greens.

I was able to make a small salad from today's harvest. How exciting!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hardening Off Early Spring Veggies

For the last week, my early spring vegetables have been hardening off in the cold frame. The night temperatures are still in the 30's here in Oregon. They have done amazingly well in their new home. I also set the onions and leeks out to get more light. They'll be planted in the cold frame soon!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Restaurant Rambling: MAKI

Sorry folks, I'm behind on my blogging (again) as I've been preparing for my trip to London and Paris. Here's a few posts before I leave.

I love love love Japanese food! I have a few favorite restaurants around town that I frequent when the cravings hit. One day, I happened to find some rave reviews of this spot called MAKI. It's rather ironic because MAKI is located in downtown Tigard. I've passed this place a million times before but never thought twice of it. At one point I thought it had closed down. But looks like I was wrong.

I decided to check it out myself. The exterior of the restaurant is rather unassuming and located next to a wine making shop. I wish I had taken photos of the inside for you because it proves you should never judge a book by it's cover. It's quite pretty on the inside with nice seafood murals on the walls. I hear the owner's wife is quite artistic.
The owners are Japanese and the food is quite authentic. The menu is diverse and specials change weekly. There is a good variety on the menu: otsumami (small plates of food; like tapas), noodles, sushi and donburi.

I tried the Saba Miso appetizer. Ohhhh yummy!! Saba is in the mackerel family of fish. It's a oily fish but tastes so delicious! I usually enjoy my saba grilled or fried. For this dish, they braise the fish and cooked it in a delightful miso sauce. Yum!! The only downside of this dish was that the saba was sliced into steaks and thus there were bones to be picked through. Still delicious!
I also got sushi. I tried the salmon (sake). I also tried their creamy scallop (hotate). The fish is cut very generously and covers the rice (as it should be) on the sushi. I liked their scallop mixture as they added small diced avocado which gave it a nice touch. However, I just wished they put more of it in there. Note that MAKI charges per piece of nigiri sushi (as opposed to most Western sushi restaurants that give you 2 pieces per order). It can seem a little spendy but I'm more than willing to pay for good sushi.

I should add that since this, I've been back to Maki a couple of times. The sushi is very good. I would even venture to say it's one of the better places in the Portland area. If you're looking for quality sushi, this is one of the places you should try. We don't have very many good sushi places in Portland. It's rather disappointing because of our location in the Pacific Northwest. Most places are "eh" at best. Maki is turning out to be one of my favorites for sushi.

12430 SW Main Street
Tigard, OR 97223
ph: (503) 639-7005

Monday, March 21, 2011

Recycling Your Green Tea Leaves

I *heart* green tea. I sometimes drink a cup or two a day. I'm behind on my magazine reading but had some time to catch up on February 2011's issue of Fine Gardening. In a little blurb, they mentioned that you may be seeing green tea in your garden center soon. WHAT?

It seems that home gardeners have been using green tea as fertilizer, especially for container gardens. The green tea leaves have lots of nitrogen and other fabulous micronutrients.

I already save my coffee grounds for my plants. I usually compost my tea bags but now it seems I'll have to put them to the side for use in my garden. Yeah green tea!!

Happy First Day of Spring 2011!

Today is the first full day of spring, officially. Too bad it doesn't feel very spring-like. It was overcast with intermittent showers today. However, we did have moments of sunshine. The birds were out. I managed to snag some proof that spring is right around the corner....Robins!! I also love how the trees are "budding". Further proof that spring is coming!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Super Full Moon 2011

This was as good as it got for me and the Super Moon. It was way too overcast and cloudy. I got this snapshot as the moon peeked out from under the clouds. I guess better luck in 18 years?

Thinning the Celery

Today I took fellow blogger's advice and thinned out my celery. In most cells, there were at least 5 seedlings growing. I thinned to 2-3 well spaced celery seedlings per cell. I didn't have the heart to than any more. I'll see how they grow and decide whether to thin more later.

I was at the garden store today and their celery were twice as high and I believe there were a few plants per cell.

Warm Seedlings Transplanted

My tomato seedlings had really taken off. But I noticed that even with an overhead grow light, they were a little leggy. I decided it was time to pot them into larger pots.

To remedy the leggy stems, I planted the tomatoes deep in the pots. I remember reading that tomato plants will actually grow roots along their stem when planted deep. It was sad when I had to thin them out. Some cells were growing 2 healthy plants. I debated whether to try to salvage the other seedling and plant both but decided not to take my chances. I was afraid I'd disrupt the root systems of both plants so I decided not to get greedy.

It was also about time to transplant because the fast growing tomatoes were blocking out the light for the slower growing peppers and eggplant.
After the tomatoes were transplanted, they were looking happier with more elbow space.
Some of the peppers were also doing really well.

I got a little brave with the peppers and tried to pot up more than one per cell if there was a lot of space between them. I was afraid I killed them because they looked a little droopy after transplanting them. I hope they all survive!

Super Full Moon Tonight

Don't forget to sneak a peek at the full moon tonight. It'll be a super full moon and about 13% larger than normal. If you miss it, you'll have to wait another 18 years!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting your money's worth at the salad bar

The next time you find yourself at the salad bar, these are a few tips to help you get your money's worth:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Restaurant Rambling: Pok Pok

I had the most delicious meal at Pok Pok. This is Yam Tuna (Thai style tuna salad with ginger, garlic, thai chilies, green onions, lemongrass, cherry tomatoes and canned Oregon albacore tuna in a spicy lime and fish sauce dressing). It's the most delicious canned Oregon albacore tuna you'll ever taste! I got the thai chilies on the side. Those little suckers sure pack a punch!

Pok Pok
3226 SE Division Street
Portland, OR
ph: (503) 232-1387

Seedling Tour 3/15/11

Here's the seedling tour for March. Lots growing and hopefully will make it to the garden!

Plum tomatoes-Romas & San Marzano

Misc tomatoes, peppers and eggplant growing well.
Some seeds didn't germinate like these Anaheim peppers. The Hot Cherry Bomb peppers were slow to germinate but I'm glad they finally showed up to the party!

Even my dad's Hawaiian Chili Peppers have finally sprouted!

The tomatoes have done really well. I think it's time to transplant them to larger pots this weekend!

The onions, leeks and earlier greens are getting some sun and trying to harden off before being planted in the garden.

My thyme and parsley continue to grow.

The basil has just sprouted!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Story of Hope and Survival

It's been another depressing day of news footage of Japan. The damage is devastating and loss of life is incomprehensible. One news story brought hope in a sea of despair. A 4 month old baby was found amid the rubble in Japan. It's a testament to how miraculous survival can be, even to the tiniest of lives.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Celery Update 3/14/11

Just a quick update on my celery seedlings. I guess I haven't updated on their growth in quite a while. They seem to be doing well and holding their own. There's more than one seedling in each cell. Should I consider thinning them now or let them be?
I started feeding them a 1/4 strength fertilizer a few weeks ago. They looks so happy! I've had to baby these for a while. I hope they have a successful year!

Harvest Monday 3/14/11

All the news coverage of the disaster in Japan has me so sad. It's so heartbreaking. I was glad to distract myself a little with this post and a "hooray" moment today.

I planted a windowsill planter box about a month ago. If you click on the link, it's at the very end of the post. When I planted it, I didn't think it would grow very well because although it is in a south facing window, the sunlight quantity at the time was very little. Fast forward just a few weeks and tada! I just realized the mizuna was getting a tad outta control. What a huge difference!

The spinach was coming along nicely also. This is the first time I've seen this variety of spinach grow. I had no success with them (Asian Red Tooper Spinach) last year. All my crops never matured past the seedling state. This one is thriving! YUMMY!

Today I was able to pick off larger stems of the mizuna, baby lettuce and spinach for a nice mixed green salad. I love how pretty all the textures of the different greens look. I can just taste spring right around the corner!!

Happy Harvest!!

**Linking in to Daphne's Dandelions Monday Harvest** Stop by her blog to see what other lucky gardeners are harvesting.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Satellite Photos of Japan Before and After

I came across this the other night. The difference is gut-wrenching. In some areas, very little is left standing. Move the slider across the screen to see the devastation.

Friday, March 11, 2011

8.9 Earthquake Hits Japan

I just happened to fall asleep with the television on last night and awoke to BREAKING NEWS. I was fixated on the tv the rest of the night. I was horrified and my heart sank at the video they were showing of a 8.9 earthquake hitting just Northeast of Tokyo and the aftermath, a 20-30 foot wall of water washing ashore on Sendai. The tsunami that the quake triggered reached as far as 6 miles inland and devastated the coastal community.

My prayers go out to my friends in Japan. Please be safe and we're all praying for you!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What's Cookin?: Seafood Gumbo

This recipe is for the inner Cajun in you. For Mardi Gras, I decided to go a little Cajun. It's a delicious gumbo with a kick. I'm no Cajun expert. I've had my fair share of gumbo but can't confess to know what an authentic gumbo tastes like. This recipe was delicious! The spices add just the right taste and flavor to this dish. I couldn't stop eating it! In the words of that crazy kook Charlie Sheen, "WINNER"!

I've never made a roux before. It took a while to get the heavenly peanut butter dark color (around 10-15 minutes). Keep stirring your roux. Don't let it burn! You can use any combination of seafood you like. I just happened to see scallops and clams on sale. Some suggestions are raw shrimps (shells off, tails on), cooked crawfish tails, lump crab meat, oysters (shucked), mussels, etc. Depending on what you add, you would add it to the gumbo at different times.

This recipe is moderately spicy (my nose was running a little after eating a bowl of this, but in a good way!). If you want it mild, add less cayenne and paprika. I served it over brown rice but a crusty french bread would have been excellent to have around!!

Seafood Gumbo
Serves: 6-8

1 c. flour
1 c. vegetable oil
1 medium white onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil (for frying)
1/2 lb. andouille sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/2 package frozen okra, thawed and sliced into bite sized pieces
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. crushed dried thyme
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. celery seeds
1 qt (or 32 oz.) chicken broth or stock
1 lb. clams
1/2 lb. bay scallops
salt and black pepper to taste

1) If using clams or mussels in the shell, pick through them and throw out any chipped, broken or open shells. Soak them in fresh water for 20 minutes to remove any sand. As the shellfish "breathe", they will circulate the fresh water and flush out any remaining sand or debris still left in them. After 20 minutes, remove the shellfish from the water. The sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Scrub the outsides of the shellfish to remove any particles or barnacles. Set aside.

2) Make your roux in a small saucepan. Combine 1 c. flour and 1 c. vegetable oil in the saucepan and over medium heat, stir continuously to make sure that the mixture does not burn. Continue to stir until the roux turns to a dark brown color with a nutty aroma.

It will looks like this (like peanut butter) after about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

3) In a small pot, steam your shellfish with about 1 c. of chicken broth until they just open. Turn off heat and set aside (reserve broth for gumbo). Toss any shellfish that did not open.

4) In a large pot, add 1 Tbsp vegetable oil and over medium-high heat saute onions, celery, green peppers and garlic until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

5) Add the andoullie sausage and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes.

6) Add tomatoes, spices, okra and remaining chicken stock (as well as reserved chicken stock from steaming the shellfish). Bring to a medium boil. Stir roux to bring it together again. Add 1 Tbsp. roux at a time to your gumbo to bring it to the proper thickness (I used about 1/2 of the mixture). Taste gumbo and salt and pepper and adjust seasonings if you desire. If using raw shrimp, add it at this point and cook until shrimp are opaque. Lower heat and simmer.

7) If using crawfish, crabmeat or oysters, add it now. Continue to simmer gumbo for another 1/2 hour. If using scallops and pre-steamed shellfish (clams or mussels), add them now and simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat and serve.