Sunday, January 27, 2013

New Dutch Oven

At this point, I've accrued just about every kitchen gadget I ever hope to own.  However, a dutch oven was perhaps one item I'd overlooked. My  mother had never cooked with one, so it wasn't clear to me whether shelling out for one- at a few hundred dollars for a quality one, was worth it.  Recently, a porcelain-glazed option from Lodge has been getting great reviews on Amazon. At about $60, it was much more reasonable price tag for giving it a try.  So I threw one onto my Christmas list, and my generous mother-in-law got one for me. It looks and feels beautiful- though I will note that it wasn't exactly easy to lug home through the airport in a carry-on.

I was really excited to give my new dish a whirl as soon as I got home. I searched the web for a great recipe and I found this one for roasted chicken.  I love lemon, and I have a huge under-used sage plant in my garden.  I was weirded out by last, unexpected component though-milk! Really? Milk? Well, I admit to being curious.

I tried the recipe on a Sunday, and I was impressed how quick and easy it was. It basically just involved throwing the ingredients together, and after browning,  putting the chicken into the oven.  I followed the prior bloggers recommendation about leaving the lid on until the final 30 minutes and I'm glad I did. The chicken browned beautifully and I think it would have burned if I'd kept the  lid off the whole time.

The chicken did turn out beautifully. It tasted even better than it looked and got a huge thumbs up from the husband.  It was very flavorful, but not heavy. It reminded me of great French cooking and would go well with potatoes and a green vegetable or carrots. We went with rice and fresh peas. The juices did make for a nice sauce- I just skimmed the top to avoid the milk globs (yes, there were a few).  Overall, I was quite impressed and highly recommend this dish for an easy meal. It would be great for a dinner party because it looks impressive and was really effortless.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Summer Garden

My spring garden turned out rather disappointing- heavy rains and a lack of gutters colluded to drown many of my seedlings. Then, last two weeks of 90-degree temperatures finished off the survivors. Such is the life of a SoCal gardener- the average is 70 degrees but we seem to just swing through the extremes, rarely sitting at "average".

So I threw up my hands and started my summer garden. It's been 90 after all, right?  I had given an earlier start to my zucchini plants in the hope that they'd establish and bear fruit before being overwhelmed by the tomato plants like last year. The plan appears to be working- I already have one little zucchini. There are currently three plants- I'll see how crazy that is I guess. I also started snow peas earlier, and after a very slow start, they appear to be on their way to productivity. We had our first tasty, small batch this weekend.

For the rest of the garden, I put in the following this weekend:
The peas & zucchini have a good start.
Debris is from work on the front yard. 

3 kinds of tomatoes:
- Sweet 100 (Returning this year after a spectacular crop last year)
- Hillbilly (Jon wanted an heirloom variety- this seemed appropriate)
- Pantano Romanesco Italian Heirlom

3 varieties of peppers:
- Golden Bell
- Purple Beauty
-Giallo di Cuneo

And the following:
- Kentucky Wonder string beans
- Little Leaf pickling cucumbers
- Little Finger Carrots
- Tatsoi (spring garden)
- Golden beats
- Pak Choi & Gailan

Updates to come. For the moment, the garden is enjoying rain and 49 degree temperatures. So much for summer...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Yard Begone!

We've been working to get our yard landscaped and renovated for about a year now.  As with all home projects, its taken way longer than I would have thought. But we're on our way- at least with the front yard!

Until now, we've been "that house" on the block- the one that clearly needs some love and care.We've done a lot of great things on the inside, which frankly is where we spend much of our time. Sadly, that left the outside mostly neglected except my veggie garden and an occasional clean up from the neighborhood gardener. The first step was to install and paint fences, which we did last summer.  We also got a landscape plan made, but when all was done,  Fall had come and we decided to wait.

While winter has tried to keep its clutches on us this year, it is technically spring and we decided to get the front yard tackled. Our gardener has the plans in hand and he's been working in between the rain squalls to get the job done. The plan for the front includes ripping out all the grass and replacing it with wood-chips and drought tolerant, native plants.  The move towards low-water, native landscaping is slowly taking hold in LA, and is especially working its way through Altadena. After living in Flagstaff for a summer, I know beautiful, environmentally-friendly landscaping is possible, and I'm thrilled we're making it happen in our own smidge of land.  So far, the grass and the awful brink-lined flower beds are gone. Irrigation is coming next week. I'll post more pictures when we get the plants and ground cover it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Spring Garden

After a long hiatus, I'm back to gardening. My fall garden didn't go well- we had a lot of rain and the lack of gutters (normal in CA) resulted in a flooded bed. Thanks to la Nina though, we're now having a dry, warm spring.  After spending the morning de-weeding the neglected bed I put in the following seeds:

  • Choi Sum (like baby bok choi) from in-laws
    • Pak Choi Mei Qing Choi
    • Gai Lan? The package is in Chinese
    • Te Yu gai lan
    • Hatakena
    • Snow peas from in-laws
    • Purple Dragon carrots
    • Golden Beets
    • Little Finger carrots
    You'll notice a theme with the garden this season. I promised Jon that I'd try to grow some Asian veggies for him. It didn't go so well this fall, so I'm giving it a second go now.  Its definitely an experiment- I'm not totally sure what some of these plants are suppose to look like. It makes weeding a little more adventurous.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010

    Garden Update

    The vegetable garden appears to be doing fairly well, which is coming as a total surprise. I guess watering your vegetables regularly makes a difference! I'm glad that I installed the automatic drip system. I was gone on business last week and didn't have to worry about my plants. I was pleasantly surprised to see how big they'd grown while I was gone. My tomato plants are nearly 4 feet tall and starting to develop little green tomatoes. I'm already seeing some beans and a bell pepper appear too. The zucchini has struggled, surprisingly, but it appears to be on its way now. Hopefully we'll have a bountiful harvest in the near future.

    Sunday, April 25, 2010

    Vegetable Garden- v1.0

    After all the work we've done on the yards lately, I was inspired to start a vegetable garden. I'm not known for my green thumb, so I did a lot of reading up on getting a garden started. I'm hoping the studying will pay off and we'll have a bountiful harvest later this year.

    Before I could plant anything in our raised bed, I had to de-weed it. It took me a day to get all the weeds out and the soil fit for the growing good things. The picture on the right shows the raised bed before I cleaned it up. It's on the south side of our house, so sunshine won't be a problem. Hopefully it won't back the vegetables too much come summer. Some of the weeds were waist high and tough little buggers. Now that the bed is cleared, we have a 3-foot by 20-foot bed to work with.

    To conserve on water, I installed a drip system to irrigate the veggies. I'm hoping it works as advertised, since I don't want to be spending my evenings watering and weeding. We'll see how that experiment goes. In further experiments, our outside electrical conduit runs right behind the garden box, so I also had extra piping through to allow future lighting. It required digging a deep hole to and getting really dirty. Jon couldn't resist grabbing a shot of me in my sullied state.

    The final results of stage I. After getting the drip system in, I transplanted a my first set of vegetables. So far, I have a set of sweet corn, Two different kinds of tomatoes, two different peppers and some bush beans planted. Phase II will be planting the vegetables from seeds. These will include zucchini, pole beans, and a second crop of corn. If all goes well, we'll be have some tasty veggies coming our way in a couple of months. I'll keep posts updating our progress. Advise is welcome, and very much needed.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Building fences

    We've been working to fix up a lot of the interior of the house over the past year, and with the warmer weather arriving our thoughts turned to our yard. We've had a lot of people over the past year tell us that the inside of the house is a lot nicer than they expected from the outside, and we're hoping to change that. Before we started planting beautiful plants, we knew we had to do something about our fence. We had a wrought iron fence around both the back and front yard was pretty dated; the white paint on it was rusted through and looking pretty shabby.

    In the front yard, we would have loved to get rid of the fence, but with all the foot traffic we get on our corner, it didn't seem practical. We decided to paint the wrought iron fence a red-brown that complements the house color. We're really pleased with the results- although it felt like it took us *forever* to get the job done and some help to get it all done. The picture above shows the old, drab white fence next to a section we finished. Lesson learned this project: when a paint product advertises "phenomenal adhesion", its probably a good idea to get it on your skin. Hopefully the paint job will last much longer than the rash...

    In the back, a kluged together set of wood, wrought iron fences, as well as shrubs, were used to create a barrier and privacy. Time had not treated any of it well. The shrubs had been hacked to nearly the roots before we moved in, so we had no privacy. Rather than salvage the fence, we decided to put a new, beautiful wooden one. Our good friend Andy came down from Portland to install it for us. Its soooo beautiful!!! And it went up so quickly! We couldn't be more thrilled. We still need to stain it and treat it, which is a big job, but we're already enjoying our new, private backyard. We also now have a new drive way to park our car off the road. We keep the (broken) automatic fence from the old wrought iron fence to give us a little security.

    Next step is to get the plans from our landscape designers and get started on the irrigation, hard-scaping, and then planting. It'll be a big job but so worth it!

    We have a bunch of pictures posted here. Here's some of my favorites:

    Upper Right: Demolition of the old fence
    Upper Left: The finished fence
    Lower Right: Andy and Jon thinking hard on how to get the fence to work out.
    Lower Left: The beautiful gate Andy