Gardening in January

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Jan 142018
two image collage of the raised beds, before and after

Left: The raised bed (double height) in its original shaded spot. Right: One of the new beds, moved into the sun.

It seems like every January has at least one day that makes us all a little hopeful that winter won’t last forever, and today was that day, with clear blue skies, temperatures up into the 60’s and a hint of spring in the air. I took advantage of the beautiful weather to embark on a gardening project I’ve been planning since fall, when we had two sickly trees taken out of our back yard. The trees, along our eastern fence, blocked much of the morning and midday light from half of the yard, and now that they’re out I finally have somewhere besides my back patio to grow vegetables.

I had an old raised bed in another part of the garden that never got enough sun, so today I took it apart and started to move it (and the soil) to the new sunny patch. I’m halfway through, but since tomorrow’s a holiday and it’s supposed to be nice again I’ll have plenty of time to finish. While I was out there I had an epiphany about using the old posts from a wood pile to frame and support a raspberry patch, now that its in the sun. Here’s a highly professional mock-up of what that would look like:

raspberry patch mockup

The only problem with this plan is that its right atop our pachamanca pit, so I might not win this round – we’ll see!

Tomato Plants are in the Ground!

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Jun 052013

Well I finally got my tomato plants in the ground – it’s probably super late for most of the country but just fine for the northwest. I actually plant them in planters because the least shady spot in our yard is up against the side of the house so they sit on a gravel strip with a nice southern exposure.  I planted a roma, a supersweet 100 cherry tomato, and ‘champion’ which seems like a slicing tomato. I also put in a few jalapeno peppers and pot of sugar snap peas.

The big project of the day was pulling the fig tree out of the planter box next to our patio – we always loved to eat the figs at the end of summer until last year, when we happened to notice the rats enjoying the figs too. That pretty much ended our enjoyment of the figs, so the tree had to go. There happen to be a lot of other plants in that planter I wanted to save, so I had to dig and cut out the fig just around the bottom of the trunk and then pull out as many roots as I could. I had to cut through a few of the roots with a pruning saw they were so thick. Look at this thing!

I planted a bougainvillaea in the fig’s spot, which will look nice against the shed wall and will complement the Mediterranean herbs that are growing there now (rosemary, lavender, marjoram and sage). It normally won’t overwinter here, but I’ve got it in a little microclimate so I’m hopeful. I still need to fashion some sort of lattice or ladder it to climb.

I also had a fuchsia to pot up so I planted it in an old watering can that belonged to my grandfather. I think it’ll look really great once the fuchsia starts to flower and droop over a bit.

Finally, here’s a peony that’s just bloomed – beautiful isn’t it?

I hope you’re all enjoying your June gardens! What’s blooming in your yard?

Summertime Grilled Chicken Supper

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Jul 302012

On a warm summer Sunday, I always like to indulge my urge to cook out on the grill. Tonight I made grilled chicken thighs, corn on the cob, and white rice with basil. I did have a big assist from Alvaro – he made the marinade for the chicken. Here’s the story of a summer supper in photos:

Corn on the cob soaking in a pot before it goes on the grill – it keeps the husks from burning.
Chicken thighs on the grill.
Corn and chicken grilling.

Chicken, corn and herbed rice.

Of course, always with one eye on the Olympics – those synchronized divers are crazy!

Tilapia with Peppers and Onions

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Jul 272012
Tilapia with peppers and onions, brocolli and white rice on a blue plate

Tilapia with peppers and onions, served with white rice and a side of steamed brocolli, is a delicious and easy weeknight meal.

Tonight was a quick dinner – pan-friend tilapia smothered with onions and sweet bell peppers, served with steamed rice and broccoli.

Super easy and super kid friendly (my kids aren’t into fried onions and peppers so I left it off their portions).

Tilapia with Peppers and Onions, serves 4

4 tilapia filets
2 sweet bell peppers, cored seeded and sliced
1 yellow onion, sliced
california style garlic salt
salt and pepper
cayenne pepper
apple cider vinegar
olive oil for sauteing

1.  Heat olive oil in a heavy frying pan over medium heat, then add the onion and pepper slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until they are browned and wilted, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with cayenne pepper (I used about 1/2 teaspoon) and a splash of cider vinegar and cook for a minute more. Put the mixture into a bowl and set aside.

2. Season the tilapia filets with the garlic salt. Heat more olive oil (if needed) in the same pan over medium heat, add the filets, and cook. Depending on the thickness of the filets, this should take about 4 minutes for each side.

3. Put each filet on a plate, top with some of the peppers and onions, and serve with a wedge of lemon for squeezing on top, if desired.

Happy Independence Day!

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Jul 052012

Oooh, I almost forgot to post tonight! My project today was food for our holiday celebration – olive tapanade, Mediterranean bean salad, steaks and grilled corn.

I got the recipe for the bean salad here – it’s Easy Mediterranean Bean Salad and it certainly was easy, but it tasted completely bland to me, so if I do attempt it again its going to get vamped up somehow.

Grilled corn is so so good – I wish I had some more right now!

 We finished the night with a campfire and s’mores – I was restrained and didn’t eat nearly as many as I could have – s’mores might be my favorite dessert of all time, except that I forget that until summer rolls around again.

Roasted Chicken with Cauliflower and Chickpeas

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Jun 152012

It was so chilly and fall-like tonight that I wanted to make something for dinner using the oven – preferably with roasted vegetables. I have a great recipe I got from Everyday Food magazine: Roasted Chicken with Cauliflower and Chickpeas.I hadn’t made it in awhile and I’ve been craving toasty caramelized chickpeas and cauliflower.

vegetables partway through their cooking time

Its super simple – all it takes are chicken pieces (I used all thighs), cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, red onion and chickpeas. I added purple potatoes as well since cauliflower isn’t a favorite for some people dining tonight. However, my daughter ended up trying some and decided that she loved it, saying “from now on, on the nights that we don’t have broccoli can we have cauliflower”? Uh, okay!

The finished plate – messy presentation, but it tasted yummy!

Planting in the Vegetable Garden

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Apr 242012

Today we got started on our vegetable garden. We pulled up the weeds from the winter, added three bags of compost and turned the soil. I didn’t think to take a ‘before’ picture of the raised bed, but it was looking pretty shabby. I had a few vegetable starts to plant, and I picked up some seeds at the hardware store as well.

First up Vivi helped me plant the snap pea starts – her favorite vegetable. Next Dom did a great job helping me plant the broccoli starts – his favorite veggie! Then we moved on to the seeds: rainbow carrots, bush beans, snap peas, cucumbers and radishes. We were just getting started on the itsy bitsy rainbow carrot seeds when somehow baby brother took a header face first into the garden! He’s such a boy that he couldn’t care less that he had a face full of dirt. Then, while I was getting him cleaned off Vivi planted the entire pack of carrot seeds in about a third of the garden and they’re much too small to be able to pick out. That was the end of our planting session – we’ll have to do more in the next week or so. I think I’ll wait for the carrots to sprout and then plant the radishes among them, and keep the other area for the peas and beans and cucumbers.