Ladybug Invasion!

29 06 2009

We have an aphid problem. They sit there on our trees, the leaves, our potatoes, tomatoes, dahlias, and even our hellabores. They are so annoying and squirmy and leave a trail of general ickiness behind their path of destruction.

As I’ve mentioned before, our house sits right on top of an extremely salmon sensitive area. Everything we do in our yard ends up in the streams that affect the salmon population and all of the other dependents. That being the case, we try to be a 100% organic gardening household. This means fighing weeds and pests require some creativity.

My back gets a little stronger every summer pulling out the weeds, but the pests are a little harder to banish from our oasis in the city. The natural enemy to aphids are ladybugs. We bought a bag of 1500 ladybugs for $4.99 at the local nursery and unleashed them on our yard. It will never get rid of ALL of them, but I’ve seen a pretty big improvement already.

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one of our soldiers protecting the potato crop

In other news, the potatoes are starting to flower!!!! Yippee! This means in about 3-4 weeks we will be able to begin harvesting some baby purple potatoes! I simply cannot wait to get a taste of these. The tomatoes are really coming along (Mr. Stripey even flowered this weekend)!

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potato flower and buds

You are all invited for brunch or dinner when our harvest comes on in!





L-pod Coffee Roasters

28 06 2009

For those of you who have had the pleasure of breakfast (or lunch, dinner, snacks, stopping by to drop something off…) at our house, you know the passion my husband has for coffee. After our honeymoon in Italy, his passion hit new heights. The quest for a perfect shot of espresso is a new favorite pastime in our house. Recently, Scott discovered one of our favorite local roasters sells “green” beans – beans that have not yet been roasted.

The key to a reeeeeeeeeeally good cup of coffee or espresso shot is the freshness of the roast. If the coffee was roasted a year ago, your chances of a good shot are not so high. If the coffee was roasted just a few days ago, you might be in luck for the best shot (cappucino, latte, americano, etc) you’ve ever had!
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fresh dried green beans from Vivace - layer them in the skillet over medium-high heat

You just put the beans in a pan on medium-high heat, constantly stirring, until you hear them “pop” as the steam releases. It usually takes 4-7 minutes to get to this point.

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make sure to keep stirring

You’ll see them slowly darken as you are constantly stirring so they won’t burn.

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once they've popped turn the fan on over your stove

If you prefer a medium roast, you should pull them a little more like the above beans than the below.

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the smell is a little burning, open a window

These beans below are bordering on a french roast, which is traditionally very dark and bold when brewed.

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it will be so worth it when you have coffee tomorrow

When they reach the desired darkness, pull them off the heat immediately and place them on a cookie sheet to cool. Some people will spritz them with water to stop the roasting process.

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the natural oils are beautiful

Tomorrow’s Americano is going to be aaaaaaaaaaaawesome. I can’t wait.

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the finished product - half pound of freshly roasted beans!





Bebe Poipah

25 06 2009

That’s “Baby Piper” for those of you who don’t speak 2 year old. Last week I got to talk to Abby on the phone about Aunt Nilfa (Melissa) and Bebe Poipah (Baby Piper). It sounds to me like Abby is really excited about being a cousin and a big sister all in a few week’s time. Sweet Piper is on her way home. I can’t wait to see the stories her mom & dad post on their blog! I couldn’t resist any longer though…

Welcome sweet girl, the Lpod can’t wait to come meet you!

piperinhat2

piper caroline born 18 june 2009

Now…one more down, one more to go! Can’t wait for Kate to come join us – scheduled for July 6. The 2009 family will be complete.





Camping: Rasar State Park

22 06 2009

Well, Seattle went 30 days with no rain. It’s been per.fect. Just amazing weather for May & June. Which means we are in for a killer late June and potentially agonizing early July. What did the Lpod decide to do? Well, we decided if we booked a camping trip the rains would come back. We were right!

We found a camp site just north of Seattle on the Skagit River at Rasar State Park, which is home to hundreds of bald eagles in the winter months. For reference, the Skagit Valley is where the tulip fields are in April!

001_Scott on Skagit

scott dreaming about his wishful dinner

On Saturday morning we made a yummy breakfast with coffee (I am married to Scott, the coffee master) and then went for a walk around the 3 mile loop around the campground. Much of the trail wraps around the Skagit River. We found a beach and hung out for a short while deciding what else we would do during the day.

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beach on the skagit river

The rest of the campground is surrounded by “hay fields” which were first logging territory turned farmland turned state park. Mixed in each of these fields are fun volleyball courts and picnic grounds.

003_Hay Fields at Rasar

farm house on the skirt of the camp ground

Scott decided that since the weather was scheduled to turn (toward rain) that afternoon, it would be a perfect chance to try to catch a trout for dinner. The weather didn’t change, he caught some logs and enjoyed casting. I read and relaxed in the shade. Perfect relaxation.

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relaxing by the river side

Back to the campsite, Scott got the fire going and I started in on dinner. I made grilled andouille sausages over a bed of sauteed chard and goat cheese polenta. Yeah, go ahead and laugh at me. I like cooking, okay?

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chard and polenta cooking away

The finished dinner by the campfire was delicious. If you didn’t laugh at me, I’ll invite you camping with us next time.

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stop laughing at me

Sunday morning we woke up to rain so we made a quick breakfast, broke camp, and headed out on to the North Cascades Scenic Highway. Oh, dear. This is by far the most spectacular drive I’ve seen to date. The views are unbelievable. It’s a pretty short stretch of highway that is open only a few months out of the year. I HIGHLY recommend everyone make this drive some time in their life. Breathtaking. And only about 1.5-2 hours from our front door.

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the early part of north cascades national park

The rocks in the picture below just looked fake to us. The pictures really don’t capture just how clear the water was and smooth…almost silky…the rocks looked.

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silky granite

I loved all of the moss and mysterious fog.

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look how clear the water is below

We stopped off to check out a dam along the Skagit. Maybe this one was the Ross Dam?

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forgot to write down where i was, it was too cold for chacos

Many of the peaks were still snow capped – and many of them getting snow while we visited. It was chilly!

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peak shrouded in clouds

My favorite view point of the drive was at the Ross Lake overlook. The color of the water was a crystal clear aqua blue. So beautiful. Scott decided our next camping trip would be on that island. I protested, how would we get the stove there for me to cook gourmet campfire meals?

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my favorite view point - ross lake

We met some new friends. One of them is a little spike.

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our friend spike and his lady friend

Sometimes I couldn’t tell if I was looking at a river or a lake, but all of it was either a clear aqua or a shimmery green (cloudy from the glacier silt). It was really hard to stop posting pictures. I hope you caught a glimmer of what the park is like!

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the long and windy river...

All in all, it was a very peaceful weekend…especially since for most of the trip the cell phone worked and I could keep getting and giving updates on the sweet little princess Piper. Welcome to our world little girl. Cannot wait to come meet you!





Veggie Garden 2009

15 06 2009

My thumb is going from black to a greener shade of brown, I think. Quite a bit of trial and error and a couple of years of a yard have helped me learn quite a bit about what works and doesn’t. This year we have some pretty awesome crops coming together. Below you can see the purple potatoes. My philosophy in gardening is to find crops of stuff that are harder to find in your regular market so it makes it worth the time & money.

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purple potato crop

My Black Prince Heirloom Tomato. Yes, an evil name. I hope the tomato is evilly delicious.

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black prince

Pretty Cosmos. To take the place of the ranunculus.

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new cosmos

The hydrangeas have gone crazy! Back in September 2007, my parents helped us plant our first plants…these hydrangea bushes! We have three bushes. Each of them is about 4-5 feet wide and 3 feet tall, each with 50-75 blooms! My favorite plant, by far!

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early hydrangea bloom

Remember our back yard? I know the picture has a lot of bad shadows, but I’m so proud of how it has filled in with the plants from last year. I love summer!

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backyard is finally coming together

Our full garden treats include (keeping written down somewhere so I don’t forget in 2010, thanks for indulging me!):

Black Prince Heirloom Tomato
Mr. Stripey Tomato
Black Krim Tomato
Purple Carrots
Purple Potatoes (baby ones)
Walla Walla Sweet Onions
Sweet Sugar Pumpkins
Bush Beans
Cilantro
Basil
Chives
Golden Beets
Bibb Lettuce
Watermelon (haven’t come up yet, I think the crows got the seeds)
Update! Forgot my peppers…
Habanero peppers (we always attempt, never have gotten fruit, too short and cold of a summer here)
Serrano peppers (got some good ones last year!)

Are you growing veggies this summer?





Sunday Supper: Pad Kee Mao

11 06 2009

Pad Kee Mao is a pretty simple Thai stir fry dish (that I recently learned is inspired by Chinese dishes that were cooked in Laos). The name sounds fancy because it is foreign, but the dish itself takes less than 30 minutes total to make!

If you have Pad Kee Mao in a Thai restaurant in the states, they might also call it “Drunken Noodles.” There is no alcohol in the dish, so this always confused me, but folklore says the original dish is so spicy that it will cure a hangover. Others say that it’s so spicy that only drunks can eat it. (Question: has anyone else heard a correlation between drunks and spicy food? I have not. But am intrigued).

Well, in search of a recipe for this dish, I scoured the used book store Thai cookbooks, the Internet, and many other places. I couldn’t come up with anything that matched my perfect pad kee mao – so I kind of created my own recipe. Results? Scott says it’s AWESOME, I liked it, and it was even better for lunch today!

So, if you are up for a little adventurous cooking, this would be a good place to start. It’s a very tasty dish, that even non-Thai food likers love (no curry for your curry evaders).

Pad Kee Mao 002

ingredients for stiry fry (forgot to show noodles and meat)

Marinade Ingredients:
1 pound thin sliced steak (you can use chicken, tofu, or add more veggies, this is a very flexible dish) cut into 1″ squares
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg
1 Tablespoon rice wine or rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce (can purchase in any major market in the asian section)
1 Tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Marinate meat in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes, up to overnight.

45 minutes before you begin, soak the rice noodles in hot water. Leave them to soak until they are soft, but not mushy.

Stir Fry Ingredients:
1 clove garlic, minced
5 thai chiles (little green ones next to jalapenos, sub jalapeno if needed), thinly sliced (use chiles to your taste preferences, we like it hot!)
1 red jalapeno, thinly sliced
marinated steak
1 large carrot, thinly sliced
1 small crown broccoli, broken into small pieces
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
1 package extra wide rice noodles*
*(also called rice flakes, any rice noodle can work. found in an asian grocery or in asian section of major market)
2 eggs, lightly scrambled
1 Tablespoon Dark Sweet Soy Sauce (found in asian section of major market)
1 Tablespoon Golden Mountain Seasoning Sauce (can substitute light soy sauce for this)
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon brown sugar

Directions:
1. Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmery. Add garlic and chiles to oil and let saute for 30 seconds.
2. Add meat. Cook thoroughly, while stirring and flipping. About 4 minutes.
3. Add broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes. Stirring constantly.
4. Add noodles to mixture and toss, incorporating all ingredients.
5. Add eggs and mix with all ingredients, scrambling into dish.
6. Add remaining ingredients (Dark sweet soy through brown sugar). Incorporate and ensure it coats noodles, vegetables, and meat entirely.

Serve. Delicious!

I don’t serve this with anything on the side, it’s a one pot meal for sure. You could serve with some other vegetables if needed, but no rice or bread as the starch is in the rice noodle.

Pad Kee Mao 003

finished product





Sunday Supper: Pad Thai

1 06 2009

The first week I knew I was moving to Seattle, I spent a whole week in May searching for an apartment to call home. I looked all over, I had my list of requirements (if you’ve ever used my moving spreadsheet, you know what I’m talking about) and I knew I had to be downtown. Going from College Station to Dallas was one thing. Dallas to Seattle a whole new world! The first apartment didn’t have air conditioning, it did not meet my requirements. Neither did the 2nd or the 3rd…and on and on. Turns out NO ONE has it here except some of the people who live out in the burbs. Lucky for me, I lived right on the bay. No matter how hot the day is, the breeze coming off that bay cools everything right off. God’s air conditioning, I guess!

Summer is on it’s way, the house is getting up to about 80° every day, that means shorter cooking times required. This week it was stir fry (in addition to regular sunny day grillings) – Pad Thai. I decided this one with chicken instead of the usual shrimp. I also was missing tofu in the fridge, so I was lacking the tofu. 🙂

Ingredients:
1/2 pound dry rice noodles, preferably 1/4 inch wide
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 serrano pepper, diced
1 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into bite sized pieces
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (adjust to taste)
6 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups bean sprouts
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges

PadThai Ingredients

small number of ingredients for pad thai

Instructions: 

Cover the noodles with warm water and soak for 30 to 45 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Drain and discard the water.

In a wok or large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry 15 seconds. Add the serrano pepper. Add the chicken and stir-fry 5-8 minutes or just until no longer pink in the middle. (now is when you add small chunks of tofu if you have any, make sure it is lightly coated in oil). Add the eggs and scramble. Fold in the softened noodles, fish sauce, vinegar, 1/4 cup water, brown sugar, paprika, and crushed pepper and toss for about 2 minutes or until well combined. Add the scallions and bean sprouts and heat through.

Pile onto a large platter and garnish with the peanuts, cilantro, and wedges of lime.

Pad Thai

not so glamorous shot, but tasty dish!

In other news, the short peony season is here! YAY for summer. I bought a couple of bunches at the market on Thursday. They’re still hanging on (even in this 80° house)!

Peonies

pale pink and white peonies

 

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perfect flowers

Hope everyone has a great week!