Wednesday, April 25, 2012

What's Cookin?: Strawberry-Blueberry-Marionberry Refrigerator Overnight Yogurt Oatmeal with Chia Seeds

I've been on a Chia seed kick lately.  Have you heard of them?  Yes, it's the same seeds you use to grow Chia pets but it's food grade seeds.  Apparently Chia seeds are really good for you.

Here's some facts about Chia seeds you probably don't know but should!
- Chia seeds have more Omega 3 fatty acids than flax seeds
- Chia seeds can absorb 8-10 times their weight in water and changes into a gel-like substance
- Chia seeds help you stay hydrated longer and stay fuller longer
- Chia seeds are high in protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin B and other anti-oxidants

I found some cool recipes for overnight yogurt oatmeal via Pintrest at  She has a lot of different recipes to try but I modified it to make the following recipe.  I love grab and go breakfasts since I usually don't have time in the morning to make something.  I usually make 4 of these jars one night and have them for breakfast over the next few days.  As you can see, it's full of yumminess and good for you ingredients.  I have noticed that it keeps me full longer than plain steel cut oatmeal.  

Strawberry-Blueberry-Marionberry Refrigerator Overnight Yogurt Oatmeal with Chia Seeds
Makes 1 pint

1/4 c. uncooked old-fashioned oatmeal
1/3 c. milk
1/4 c. low-fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp. dried chia seeds
1/4 c. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. marionberry jam
4 strawberries, cut into bite-sized pieces
a handfull of blueberries

1) In a pint jar with lid, add oatmeal, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, vanilla extract and jam.  Put lid on the jar and shake until well combined.  If your jam is thick, you may have to mix with a spoon.

2) Remove the lid and add fresh fruit and stir until mixed throughout.  Cover again with the lid and refrigerate overnight or as long as 3 days.  Eat chilled.

2011 Tomato Review

Since I didn't start any tomato seeds this year except the one that I just planted (and still has not germinated yet *sigh*), I'll be buying all of my tomato plants as starters this year.  Tomato starts are just starting to appear at the local nurseries here in Portland, Oregon.  A lot of local nurseries sell the coveted heirloom varieties but they sell out fast.  I have found a good selection of heirlooms at both Portland Nursery and Farmington Gardens in the past.  In the next few weeks, I'll be on the lookout for my favorites and maybe a few new varieties.

I have already started snatching up my favorites as I see them since these are smaller plants and cheaper than their larger counterparts.  I thought I would take the opportunity to make notes on the tomato varieties I grew last year as I make my wish list for must finds this year.  For 2011, I managed to harvest 83.29 pounds of tomatoes and these were the varieties I grew.

2011 Tomatoes
Ananas Noire (aka Black Pineapple)
Pretty tomatoes with tie-dyed colors of green, pink, red, purple.  Moderately productive but not my taste.  Fruits were a little acidic and not very tasty.  Will not grow again

Black Plum Cherry
I thought this would be a cherry tomato (small) but it really ended up being a small plum tomato.  The plants were productive and the fruit was sweet yet tangy.  Good tomato but I probably would trade it for a full sized tomato.

Cherokee Purple
One of my staples.  Love the deep colors of rose to purple and the sweet and rich flavor.  Productive plant.

Early season tomato that was very productive throughout the growing season.  Produced my first ripe tomatoes.  Taste was less than impressive.  Will look for another early tomato to try this year.

Green Zebra
I love love love green zebra!!  It has also worked it's way into my staples.  Very productive smaller tomatoes (about 2 inches) but very tasty!  Flesh is green and has just enough tart to make it interesting.  Not a lot of acid like you would think it should.  It's a nice change in the garden and the colors are gorgeous!

Kellogg's Breakfast
I grew this for the first time last year.  I loved the colors (yellow to orange) and the flavors (sweet with a  hint of tang).  Large beefstake tomatoes that I would grow again!  In fact I've already found a starter for this year!!

Paul Robeson
I love black/purple tomatoes.  This one has earned it's place in my garden every year.  Last year, it was my first ripe main season tomato and has been highly productive 2 years in a row.  It sets fruit at lower temperatures so it's perfect for the Pacific NW.  Colors are red to purple with green shoulders.  No problems with cracking here.  Fruit is sweet with enough balance of acids.

Beautiful large yellow fruit.  Taste is sweet with a hint of the tropics.

Roma & San Marzano
Both of these paste tomatoes grew okay for me.  I think I like the San Marzano better.  I will try to look for other varieties to try this year.  On my wish list for this year is Heinz or Amish Paste.

Sun Gold
This has always been one of my favorite cherry tomatoes.  Very productive and sweet!!  This is always in my garden!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's Cookin?: Lemon Spaghetti

Monday was a scorcher (for Portland in April, that is).  We made it to 82 degrees!!  Sometimes you just feel like a simple dinner.  I decided lemon spaghetti was perfect hot weather food.  I clipped some parsley from the garden and threw it all together.  Of course, this meal wouldn't be complete without a glass of chilled white wine.  I chose a Viognier from Peay Vineyards (California).  Delicious!  I'm talking about both the wine and the pasta of course!

I altered the original recipe just a tad.  I love lemon so I increased the lemon and lemon zest  in this recipe.  

Lemon Spaghetti
Adapted from: by Giada De Laurentiis
Serves: 6

1 lb. spaghetti
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for garnish)
1/2 - 3/4 c. fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
1/3 c. chopped fresh basil
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water and drop the spaghetti into the pot.  Cook pasta until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally (about 8-9 minutes).  

2) While the pasta cooks, whisk the olive oil, Parmesan and lemon juice in a large bowl to blend.

3) Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Toss the pasta with the lemon sauce and the reserved cooking liquid, adding 1/4 cup water at a time as needed to moisten.  Season with salt and pepper.  Garnish with lemon zest, basil, parsley and extra Parmesan cheese.  

Herb Container Garden, Container Marionberry and Planting out Cherry Tomatoes

With the nice weather this past weekend, I got some garden chores done.  I only had a few hours but managed to get a few things done.  

First I planted my herbs out.  In this planter I have a lemon verbena, garlic chives and some dill.  

I also potted up my ginger mint and my orange mint plants.  My chive plant managed to survive the winter and will be producing pretty purple flowers soon.

In this box, I have a purple sage, overwintered rosemary and overwintered oregano.  I transferred the two overwintered plants to this new planter.  They look a little worse for wear but I hope they thrive.
This weekend I also planted my Marionberry plant in a large container.  I'm hoping it does as well as my raspberry that I grew in a large container.  
My last garden chore was to plant out 2 cherry tomato plants.  These are Sun Gold and Sweet 100 cherry tomato plants.  I put up a wall of water around both of these to help keep in some heat.  Last year, I planted my first tomato plants out around May 1st.  This year I was feeling brave.   

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sowing seeds

On Sunday, I sowed another batch of seeds.  It was unusually warm on Saturday and Sunday (it got up to the mid 70's).  I set these seeds outside to grow.

1) 6 sets Mammoth Dill
2) 3 sets Italian Large Leaf Basil, 3 sets Lemon Basil
3) 6 sets Green Delight Baby Bok Choy
4) 3 sets Butterhead Lettuce, 3 sets Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce
5) 6 sets Osaka Purple Mustard Greens
6) 6 sets Misome Mustard Spinach
7) 6 sets Little Gem
8) 3 sets Prizehead Lettuce, 3 sets Winter Density

Harvest Monday 4/23/12

Last week we had a few days of warmish weather and a few rainy days.  I kept my raised bed covered with the cold frame on the rainy days.  Some veggies liked it, some didn't.  On the one hand, spinach, lettuce and Swiss chard thrived.  I was able to harvest some spinach and medium sized Swiss chard leaves this week.

On the down side, the Red Choy was unhappy with the cold frame.  I guess it got too warm in there and they bolted.  I harvested the bolting baby choy this week.  I was trimmed the bay plant and collect some leaves.    
Harvest Totals:
Spinach = 0.3 lb
Baby bok choy = 0.57 lb
Bay leaves = 0.01 lb
Swiss chard = 0.28 lb
Parsley = 0.04 lb

Join Daphne at Daphne's Dandelions to see what others have been harvesting this week.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Spring Garden Progress

My spring garden seems to be coming along nicely.  The starters that I set out on April 7th have easily doubled in size.  Last week was rainy and overcast.  We had a few days of decent weather.  I kept the cold frame lid down at night and during a few overcast days (mainly because I forgot to open the box).  Some plants like the lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard thrived.  I was able to make a small harvest of these greens.   
Other plants, like the red choy, did not appreciate the warmth.  The bed of red choy I planted were showing signs of bolting.  Because the weekend brought unusually warm temps (mid 70's), I decided to pull the red choy and replant.
The direct sown seeds are starting to appear also.  All the seed beds have tiny plants growing now.

I have replaced the cold frame cover with the hoops and barricade cloth to keep hungry pests off my greens.  I hope they do okay.

Linking to Jami @An Oregon Cottage's Garden Party.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

More Volunteers Found

As I weeded my planting beds this weekend, I happened to find more surprise volunteer plants. I found some carrots and a few cilantro plants.  How exciting!!  I will likely leave the carrots alone to see what it does.  The cilantro will be dug up and transplanted to another container.  


What's Cookin?: Sage Rubbed Pork Chops

This is a very simple but tasty recipe for pork chops and fresh sage.  You can always substitute dried herbs for fresh if you like.  I served this as a side to my barley risotto.  

Sage Rubbed Pork Chops
Serves: 4

4 pork chops
salt and pepper
about 20 leaves fresh sage, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1 can beef broth
cornstarch and warm water

1) Sprinkle salt and pepper on pork chops.  Rub both sides of each chop with chopped fresh sage.

2) Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and fry the pork chops for about 5 minutes per side or until well browned.

3) Once pork chops are cooked, add beef broth to your skillet to deglaze the pan.  Stir well.  Bring sauce to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.  Cover pan and simmer for about 45 minutes.  

4) Remove pork chops to a plate.  Turn heat back up to medium.  Add salt and pepper to your sauce to taste.  

5) Add about 2 Tbsp. cornstarch to a cup with a little bit of warm water and mix well.  Add the cornstarch/water mixture to make your gravy as thick as you like.  Add a little bit at a time and stir sauce well.  Repeat until your sauce is how you prefer.  Add pork chops back to the sauce.  Serve warm.   

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nursery Flower Finds - Columbine, Ranunculus & Pansy

These are some flowers I recently bought at the nursery.  I really can't help myself with flowers.  They're so pretty!!  Every year I tell myself not to buy flowers, especially annuals.  But each year, I can't help myself.  I have a weakness for pretty flowers!

I've never grown columbines before but I couldn't resist these beauties.  They stopped me dead in my tracks and I had to buy two.  I hope these do well in the area of my yard that I planted them in.

Spring Magic Navy & White Columbine

Songbird Cardinal Columbine

One of my all time favorite spring flowers is the ranunculus.  These are usually annuals but I've found that they can sometimes come back.  One plant that I planted 2 years ago has come back each year.  This year was no exception.  I've been very happy about that!

Who can resist pansies?  These were on sale so I bought a few for pot fillers.  

What's Cookin?: Roasted Beet and Smokey Blue Cheese Salad

I used the overwintered beets that I harvested last week to make a yummy salad.  I roasted the beets in the oven, then peeled and diced them.  I used a mixed baby green salad mix with kale as my salad base.  I added my roasted beets, smokey blue cheese crumbles, almonds and dried cranberries.  I topped my creation with a yummy balsamic vinaigrette.

Linking up to Wendy's GTTC at Greenish Thumb.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

2012 Dundee Hills Passport Tour

The Dundee Hills Winegrowers Association offers a Dundee Hills Passport Tour special each year.  Passports are $20 but there are ways to get a $5 discount.  The passports are valid the entire month of April and offers discounts on wine tasting prices.  Most at 50% off and some are FREE!  It's well worth the price and allows you to visit many of the amazing wineries in the Dundee area.  There are also discounts on restaurants and lodging.  
I first used the pass 2 weekends ago.  Some friends and I visited:
- Archery Summit
- Domaine Serene
- White Rose Wines
- Winderlea Vineyard & Winery

This weekend we visited:
- The Four Graces
- Archery Summit (a return visit)
- Sokol Blosser
- DePonte Cellars

We also had dinner at Tina's Restaurant.  The beef tenderloin was excellent!  If you haven't been out to Dundee in a while, it's time to head out to wine country.  It's beautiful!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

More Spring Plantings

There's so much to do in the garden but so little time.  The weather has been fickle.  Yesterday we had thunder and heavy showers.  Today it was cool and foggy in the morning.  By the afternoon, it was sunny and I believe the high today was 62 degrees.

I managed to weed and prep my skinny raised beds.  I planted out snap peas and direct sow more peas, some beets, carrots and radishes.  I found a volunteer golden beet so I dug him up and planted him with the other golden beets.  We'll see how he likes his new home.

Here's today's planting list:
- Sugar Daddy Snap Peas
- Sugar Lace Snap Peas
- Little Marvel Bush Shelling Peas
- Golden Beets
- Bull's Blood Beets
- Chioggia Beets
- Rothlid Carrots
- Sweet Treat Carrots
- Watermelon Radishes
- Cincinnati Market Radishes

Friday, April 13, 2012

First Seedlings of 2012

I haven't had time to plant any seeds this season.  I was finally able to make my first sowing of seeds this year.  I realize it's late to be starting peppers or tomatoes but I thought I would give it a shot.  As I've been visiting nurseries, I haven't noticed a good selection of peppers.  Maybe it's still early in the gardening season but I'm getting nervous.  What if I can't find my favorite peppers in starters?  I decided to give it a try anyway.  I also wanted to try this new tomato seeds I found.  Hopefully it'll be ready to go outside when the time is right.    

Seeds planted on 4/13/12:
- Hot Cherry Bomb Peppers x 6 cells
- Shishito Peppers x 6 cells
- Patio Red Marconi Peppers x 6 cells
- Gloire du Dauphine Lettuce x 3 cells
- Australian Yellowleaf Lettuce x 3 cells
- Rouge D'Hiver Lettuce x 3 cells
- Little Gem Lettuce x 3 cells
- Mandarin Cross Tomato x 6 cells
- Osaka Purple Mustard x 3 cells
- Misone x 3 cells
- Baby Bok Choy x 6 cells

I placed them on a warming pad and covered them with a dome.  More sowing to be done this weekend.

What's Cookin?: Barley Risotto with Caramelized Leeks, Mushrooms & Spring Veggies

I bought a bag of pearl barley to make some barley soup.  While I haven't had time to make my soup yet, I was inspired to use my leeks that I had harvested this week.  While looking up leek recipes, I came across a recipe for barley risotto.  Cool!  I was game. 
The recipe called for leek and mushrooms.  I jazzed up the recipe by adding seasonal goodies such as roasted asparagus and the small harvest of over wintered Swiss chard and spinach from my garden.  I also used up some prosciutto I had in the fridge.  The recipe called for 2 cans of chicken broth which is about 4 cups.  Next time I would use only 3 cups and add more as needed.  I found the risotto was a little watery with the entire 4 c. chicken broth and required extra cooking time once the pot was uncovered.  However, the risotto did firmed up when cooled.  You could also make this an entirely vegetarian dish if you like.

I really enjoyed this recipe.  It's amazing how barley can make a great risotto.  It was creamy and yummy just like rice!  It was delicious and definitely a keeper!!  I'm linking up to Greenish Thumb for the GTTC.  

Barley Risotto with Caramelized Leeks, Mushrooms & Spring Veggies
Serves: 6
Adapted from: (from Cooking Light, December 2003)

1 lb. asparagus
olive oil
sea salt
1/2 package prosciutto or 6 slices bacon, diced
3 c. (about 3 large) leeks, cleaned and chopped 
3 c. (about 8 oz.) mushrooms, sliced (I used baby portobellos)
Swiss chard and spinach (about 3 c.), remove ribs/stems from Swiss chard and chop
1 c. uncooked pearl barley
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cans (14 oz.) low sodium chicken broth
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated

1) Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Rinse and trim ends off asparagus.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet lined with either parchment paper or foil.  Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Roast for about 25 minutes.  About half-way through cooking, shake pan to turn asparagus.  Once done roasting, turn off oven and remove asparagus.  Allow asparagus to cool, then chop into 1 inch pieces.  Set asparagus to the side.

2)  In a large pot over medium heat, add about 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  Add prosciutto or bacon and cook until meat is crispy.  Once done, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel and set aside.

3) Add leeks to the pot and cook for about 20 minutes or until the leeks are tender and golden, stirring occasionally.  Add Swiss chard and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.

4) Add barley, salt and pepper and cook for another 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add 3 cups of broth (reserve the rest for later) and bring to a boil.  Cover pot and reduce heat.  Simmer for 40-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If risotto seems dry, add more chicken broth (about 1/2 c. at a time).
5) Uncover cot and cook for about 5 more minutes or until liquid is mostly absorbed.  

6) When risotto is done, remove from heat.  Stir in parmesan cheese, asparagus, spinach and crispy prosciutto or bacon.  Adjust seasonings after you add the above since the asparagus and prosciutto/bacon will be salty.  Serve warm.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Garden Nursery Finds

A friend and I went to Portland Nursery earlier this week.  I love strolling through their nursery which is all outdoors.  They have a lot of neat flowers, trees and edibles.  They already have a great selection of spring vegetables.  It's hard to exercise restraint!  I want it all!  They also have a great selection of seeds from some great seed companies (many local).  

A few new things I did break down and buy and are new to me this year are:

Lacinato "Rainbow" Kale
Last year I grew both Lacinato and Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale varieties.  I liked the Lacinato better.  Lacinato kale has always been my favorite to eat.  The Lacinato Rainbow Kale is a hybrid frilly leaved kale that is a cross between Lacinato and Redbor Kale.  It retains the leaf qualities that Lacinato is know for with the frilly leaves, vigor and cold-hardiness of the Redbor variety.  They come in beautiful colors like red, purple and blue-green.  There was just one plant left.  My plant is purple.

Ginger Mint
I've never seen ginger mint before.  After looking it up, I found out that it's a cross between corn mint and spearmint.  It has light green leaves with bright yellow strips throughout.  It does smell a little gingery.    

Monday, April 9, 2012

Second Spring Planting

Today was warm but overcast.  I got to work outside.  I turned over another raised bed to plant more spring goodies.  In this bed, I planted some starters that I got from the nursery.  These included: Lacinato Kale, Freckled Baby Leaf Lettuce and a new find, Lacinato Rainbow Kale.  This bed also included a large and small Swiss chard volunteer plant. 

The Lacinato Rainbow Kale is supposed to be a hybrid.  It's the nice flavor and texture people have come to love in the Lacinto Kale mixed with the pretty colors of Redbor Kale.  There was just one of these plants left at the nursery so I scooped it up to try.  The plant has pretty purple veins.    

To the left of the bed, I planted the following via direct sowing:
- 1 square foot: Japanese Salad Daikon (seeds shared by Suzie)
- 2 square feet: Purple Vienna Kohlrabi
- 1 square foot:  Purple Top Turnips
- 1 square foot: Arugula and Mizuna

Harvest Monday: 4/9/12 (first harvest of 2012!!)

Hooray!  I have something to harvest!  These are overwintered veggies that I foraged from my garden.  Some were not planned but happened by serendipity.  

These were my Walla Walla onions grown from seed last winter.  They did not fare as well in containers as I had planned.  I thought the project was a bust but lo and behold, I found some perfect looking bulbs this spring.  

These were the volunteer Swiss chard and spinach I found.  I pulled all of the spinach plants.  I'm not certain what type they are but they maybe Olympia spinach.  I needed to prep the beds.  I wasn't so eager to pull the Swiss chard plants since they were coming along so well and larger than the seedlings I had just planted.  I decided to spare them and see what happens.  I'll work around the plant while prepping the bed.

I pulled some scraggly looking Bull's Blood Beets and some Large American Flag Leeks.  The beets and leeks were planted last fall.  The 3 leeks on the left were planted out last fall.  I'm amazed at how big they got.  I harvested the 3 largest leeks for a recipe I'm trying out.  The other 2 very small leeks there were planted last spring next to celery.  The poor things got invaded by the larger celery plant.  I decided to pulled those today also.       

After the beets were cleaned, I weighed them.  They cleaned up pretty well!  I will probably roast these for a salad.  Yummy!

These were the leeks after they were washed and tops and bottoms trimmed.  Not to bad.  These will go into making a barley risotto recipe I've been wanting to try.

Harvest Totals (I love saying that!!):
- beets = 0.56 lb
- leeks = 0.7 lb
- chard = 0.14 lb
- spinach = 0.14 lb
- onions = 0.6 lb

Happy Harvest to you!!  Linking to Daphne's Dandelions.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Spring visit to the nursery

Today before work, I headed down to the nursery near my house. I was looking for some Lacinato kale starts. No such luck with the kale starts but I did spend an hour browsing and walked away with $70 worth of mostly flower starts.  I did get more lettuce and a Marionberry start for  edibles.  The raspberry did well in a container so I decided to try a blackberry too.

I didn't have time to plant flower seeds either this season. *sigh* It's gonna be an expensive year!

Restaurant Ramblings: Saint Cupcake

I snapped this photo just in time.  This was right before these beautiful cupcakes got devoured.  Our student brought these in as a thank you for hosting his rotation with us.  They're mini cupcakes or "dots". They were delicious!

Saint Cupcake
1138 SW Morrison
Portland, OR 97205

Hoppy Easter!!

Hoppy Easter!  

I made these "carrots" for my two older nieces.  I used pastry piping bags and filled them with Annie's Cheddar Bunnies.  I secured them shut and tied them with ribbons.  It went into my Easter care package to them.  Hope you all enjoy the weekend!