Friday, March 25, 2011

Spring salmon cakes with snow peas

Originally uploaded by thatgirljj
Don't these salmon cakes look yummy? It's an adaptation of the salmon cake recipe I've used before, replacing the red bell pepper with minced parsley & chives, and using a wee bit of mustard for extra flavor.

The dressing is a garlicky buttermilk dressing, that I came up with mixing and matching recipes. It is a little thin, but full of flavor and with no weird ingredients.

Garlicky Buttermilk Dressing

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
1/2 cup full fat greek yogurt
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic minced
1/8-1/4 cup minced herbs (whatever you've got)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper

Blend thoroughly and enjoy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Raised beds

I realized that if I'm going to be posting pictures of our garden, I should give a little history of how it got to be a booty kicking, food producing powerhouse. You see, when we bought our house, the backyard was just a flat stretch of weedy grass with a flat concrete patio. And by "flat" I don't actually mean flat, I mean very gently graded down towards our house, so that when it rained heavily, water poured down from the back of the yard, across the lawn and piled up near the house instead of absorbing into the soil. Basically, the yard was flat, boring and had drainage problems.

About a year after we moved in, we set about changing that. Now to be perfectly honest, I didn't do very much of the work. I had a toddler to deal with and was still suffering the after effects of post-partum depression & exhaustion. The design of the irrigation system was all my husband's doing, and a lot of the heavy labor was shared with his best friend, who had just gone through a rough break-up and needed some outdoor therapy. I can't speak to how economical the whole thing was because, frankly, my husband has a tendency to spend first and ask questions later. But man... the irrigation system in particular was SO worth it. Where we live, we get VERY hot, dry summers and having an automatic drip system makes it tremendously easy to get great veggie yields with little wasted water.

Anyway, here's a before picture...

The sod cutter made short work of the scroungy grass...

After removing the sod, there was a lot of digging and work on the irrigation system. Previously the yard had a 2 zone sprinkler system for the "lawn". He pretty much wiped out the entire zone for that side of the yard and tapped it for the irrigation to the raised beds. He ran PVC pipe under the area where we were putting the beds in, and then ran a pipe up the side of each of the beds with a faucet on it. That way we can turn water on or off to each bed individually. So for instance, when the grapes have all been eaten (by the birds & squirrels more than us), we can turn off the water to the bed that houses the grapes and keep the water flowing to the other beds. We then use a female hose coupling to attach the 1/2" irrigation tubing onto the faucets, and then design the remainder of the drip system to suit each bed. We can reconfigure the system as needed to fit the plant layout, although I'm trying to standardize that a bit so we don't have to keep reworking it all the time.

This picture shows the beds up & filled with soil, and the faucets for the drip system in place.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Garden time!

OK... time for a planting & photo update around the ol' urban homestead.

First of all, SNOW!!! We live in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, so snow is not a regular occurrance around these parts. I think we had a little hail a couple of years ago. But this year, a freak storm brought us snow. Or rather something sorta like snow. It was chunkier than snow, but softer than hail; technically, I guess it was something called graupel. But I'm going to call it snow! Here's snow in our herb garden... again, probably not astonishing to most people, but around here, it was BIG news.

In other news, today I went ahead and started planting for summer. First up, beans. We had limited success with dried beans last year, but mostly because the Little One turned off the water to the bed, and I didn't notice it until the plants were yellowing. And of course, it was when they were mid flowering, so it limited our yield quite a bit. We still had enough for a pot of baked beans, but I'm hoping for more this year. I also started beet seeds around the edge of the beans, and then started a couple Japanese vegetables (shiso and shishito peppers) in pots. I've been making a lot of bentos for lunch lately, so I wanted to add some of my favorite Japanese flavors to our garden.

Not planted, but still to come: tomatoes, eggplant and more peppers. Last year was a disaster for tomatoes. One of them had an undiagnosed virus, failed to grow beyond a seedling and infected 2 of the 3 other plants. So we ended up with one brandywine plant that produced two, count 'em TWO humongous tomatoes. They were super tasty and astonishing in size... but not very useful from the standpoint of getting food on the table every night. Eggplants have been our big winners for a few years running now. I plant a chinese variety called ping tung long and they put out and put out and put out. I'm talking 15-30 eggplant per plant stretched from July through until October. I buy them as small plants with no argument over the price because the yields make them worth every cent. Especially when compared to supermarket prices.

Being as we live in California though... I'm not just thinking about summer planting, we have veggies in the ground right now. Mainly kale, turnips & beets. I harvested a HUGE pile of turnip greens when it snowed because the tops were getting damaged by the ice. But now, they've fully bounced back, as you can see in the second picture, and I've got another pile of greens to cook up AND I have to figure out what I want to do with the roots. Hmmm... I haven't really cooked turnips much before... maybe pickled or roasted?

And then there's the beets... mmmm... I love beets! I'm so excited for them to start getting big enough to nom on.

I'll leave you with some instructions on raking from the Little One. Yes, his arms are covered with temp tattoos... don't judge, it's my low clutter solution for potty prizes.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Meal planning raises it's head yet again

We are busy, busy bees around our house right now. The Bearded One is busy preparing for a belt test in his martial arts class, and I'm busy preparing an act for an amateur circus showcase! So of course, we're living on take-out, fast food & pizza delivery, right? WRONG!

You see, I'm obsessed with meal planning. It's the secret to eating well. It allows me to plan out even a month in advance, with grocery lists at the ready. And that means we can have real, homemade food on the table, every night for dinner. In my book, that's family togetherness, right there.

So, yup, we get busy, I get planning. I'm currently trying to work out a meal plan from now until mid-April to have us covered. Right now, I'm only two weeks ahead, but by the end of this week, I should have the next month and a half of meals and grocery lists in place. Yipiee!

Tonight: Chicken breasts with mushrooms & sundried tomatoes.
Wednesday: Thai beef stir-fry.
Thursday: Salmon patties with roasted brussels sprouts.
Friday: Beef & broccoli stir-fry.
Saturday: Dinner out (I'm hoping for our favorite Scottish pub, but maybe Mexican).
Sunday: Grandma's special mac & cheese.

Oh wow... I realized I haven't yet blogged about the most important addition to our food arsenal, The Bearded One's snazzy new smoker grill. More to come on that as he gets the hang of it.