Explosions in the Sky

27 09 2009

Last weekend we headed down to Portland for a music festival. There was one catch: I caught a cold or the flu or something that invaded my body trying to keep me from having fun! I spent most of my time between Tuesday and Sunday in bed on all kinds of cold medicine. I was able to make it up for a few hours at a time to see some of the bands we went to see. Sitting in the back corner with a cup of tea and a kleenex most of the time. I was cute…I’m sure.

On Sunday morning, I was feeling closer to normal than I had in many days and it was absolutely gorgeous out! Scott said we needed to “swing by” Mt. St. Helens since I had never been. What kind of person can call themself a Washington State Resident (of 8 years) and not have seen the National Monument?

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mt st helens from johnson ridge

Well. She doesn’t disappoint. It’s incredible to be driving through a forest and turn a corner into total destruction.

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spirit lake and the glacier covered tippy top of mt adams

There is a learning center at Johnson Ridge where they have some artifacts and stories of survivors as well as those who perished in the blast. These are actual seismograph machines monitoring the activity under the mountain. This will help predict future blasts (the latest small-ish blasts were in 2006).

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earthquake!!!!

There are signs everywhere telling people to not feed the wildlife. While they are cute, they could bite, etc. I was sitting on the ledge soaking up the sun, waiting for Scott to come out of the learning center when this guy was flitting around the ledge.

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chip the little chump

Then, out of nowhere, he just attacked! I was innocently snapping pictures and he came after me. As soon as this was taken I was on the run from a creature about 1/100 my size. 

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chip the little chump on attack

Throughout the park, there are trails you can walk to see some of the remaining destruction. Everything was left as it was in 1980.

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snapped at the base

For some reason, on this hike, I had an intense craving for Taco Cabana.

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she must be from san antonio

Most of the soil surrounding Mt. St. Helens, is sterile due to the heat of the landslide (lava & gas got to temperatures of over 1300°). There are some areas of greenery and wild flowers, but nothing is particularly tall. Just underbrush, ground cover, and of course, the ever-freakin-present dandelion.

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new growth amongst destruction

On the loop around from the learning center to the parking lot, there is a memorial to the 64 people who perished during the event of the blast and subsequent massive landslide. (The top 1300 feet of the mountain blew off, equalling about 235 square miles).

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memorialized

As you walk around it’s so interesting to see remnants of life. The below trees confused us. The blast was 29 years ago. Could these trees have stunted their growth in the blast? Or have they just grown odd? What do you think?

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confounding trees

This is my favorite shot. It’s hard to see the detail when it’s not a massive picture, but you can see the standing dead forest and the trees that were blown over by the 300 mph rock, land, and tree filled wind that blew in the blast. So powerful to see it.

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left as it was found

A cute and happy Scott was very glad to get up to the monument.

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cute scott





Sunday Supper: Panzanella

21 09 2009

Ok, you caught me again. It’s Monday. Monday Supper: Panzanella? Just doesn’t sound the same. Guess what? Summer is O.V.E.R. tomorrow. So, I went out to the garden and found it riddled with many signs of end of season stress. Powdery mildew has shown up in full glory, starting to take down the cosmos, dahlias, and I even see signs of it on the tomato plants. With temperatures scheduled to drop into the mid to low 40s later this week, I think it’s safe to say…summer is coming to an end.

I clipped all the remaining dahlias (so sad to compost over 30 unopened blooms), pulled up the cosmos and pruned the infected leaves of the tomatoes, but I suspect I haven’t rid the garden of the mess.

I harvested the ripe tomatoes and those that are splitting. Next I grabbed 20 or so serrano peppers and noticed my Scotch Bonnet (habanero) has fruit on it!!! What the heck? We’ve had the hottest summer on record and it took these babies over 100 days to pollinate and make fruit. We’ll see if the cold temperatures take care of those this week.

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end of summer harvest

With the bounty of today’s harvest, I decided panzanella was in order. It’s a dish originating in Tuscany and a great way to use day old bread. Here is the recipe I pulled together for tonight’s dinner. I served it with a couple of slices of smoked proscuitto.

Panzanella
3 cups of day old unsalted Italian bread, cubed (any crusty bread would work, but unsalted is best)
2 medium tomatoes, wedged and chopped into large chunks
2 sprigs basil, torn into pieces
small fresh mozzarella balls, quartered
1 clove garlic, minced
olive oil
2 lemons, juiced
salt
pepper

Mix tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper to taste. Let sit in fridge for 20-30 minutes. Mix in bread cubes. Eat!

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panzanella goodness

I think this dish is a fine salute to the last evening of summer 2009. It was a good one!

Next up…I’m going to harvest the carrots and potatoes for a roast chicken with vegetables some night this week! I’ll need to whip up some fresh salsa with all those serrano peppers too! Maybe for some football watching on Saturday.





Mr. Stripey!

14 09 2009

FINALLY! I’ve been eating some of my smaller black tomatoes through the season, but what I really crave are the huge heirloom types. They took their time this year ripening, but Mr. Stripey finally produced the first ripe enough tomato to pull off the vine and eat for dinner. I had a black prince this weekend too, but Mr. Stripey was feeling photogenic!

Stripey is a bi-color English heirloom variety that produces low acid fruit. Some say it’s a highly productive plant, I say it’s kind of a pain! The plant is over 9 feet tall (even with severe pruning at the beginning of the season) and 3 feet wide. I will probably get about 10-15 tomatoes if the weather stays warm and ripens what I have. If not, I think I’m going to have a fried green tomato sandwich party!

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meet mr. stripey

It’s such a pretty fruit, it has green, yellow and pink streaks on the outside, but the flesh is yellow with a pink center. I love their mild flavor, low acidity, and meaty texture.

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yellow fruit with pink centers

I remembered to snap a picture of it as a tomato and mozzarella salad (the small ones are a small plum black tomato grown in the garden as well). This was just before I added a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. I got too excited and forgot to take a picture before eating. Yum.

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stripey, black plums and mozzarella





Fall Stopped by for Labor Day

13 09 2009

This year, we took our 2nd annual camping trip with some friends just east of Mt. Rainier. Most of you know our summer has been a very hot one and intensely dry. Well, we tried to make up for it with downpours, wind, and cold temperatures. We woke up on Saturday morning to discover our tent took on water, which is always fun. Fortunately, for all of us, our campsite offered a pavilion that had two picnic tables and a stone fireplace in it. It sat right along the Bumping River and only a few holes in the moss covered roof. Perfect! We woke up and made breakfast in the pavilion, and spent almost the whole day in there!

The rain let up for a little bit during the afternoon on Saturday, so we ventured out for a little hike to Soda Springs (campsite’s namesake).

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the trail along bumping river to soda springs

It’s a natural sulfur spring that bubbles up cold, not warm water. It’s not very attractive, but it’s also kind of cool. Mountain springs always interest me.

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soda springs

You can see below the pavilion where we spent most of the weekend. It was kind of nice, sitting by a fire with a book or magazine in the outdoors. Just a little chilly 🙂

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pavilion party

Kate and Ciara decided to see if there was more of a hike across the river.

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kate and ciara on the bridge

That evening, Scott & Alan went back out hunting before the sun set and we stayed in the pavilion playing games and reading.

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playing games by lantern light

That night the fog really started coming in thick. It made the full moon look eerie and cool.

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full moon and fog

It rained really hard again all night, Saturday night. So we decided to just hit the road on Sunday morning. We all snacked, packed up camp and made our way to the closest town for a warm breakfast. It was a fun trip, but fall was letting us know she was on her way!

I did manage to grab a picture of the railroad tie bridge across the river to the springs before we jetted out of town. The campsite grounds are really beautiful!

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bridge over cold waters

As I type this, the weekend AFTER labor day, we had record temps of 85° this weekend and it’s absolutely perfect weather. Sunny, breezy, warm during the day perfect at night. Summer’s not giving up on us quite yet. My tomatoes thank you, summer.





Happy Friday!

4 09 2009

My bigger tomatoes (Mr. Stripey & Black Prince) are finally starting to show signs of ripening! And no, I so don’t go out there 3+ times a day to see if maybe they are turning pink. Geesh.

Hope you have a great Friday and long Labor Day Weekend!

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two black princes





Sunday Supper: Baked Chicken Parmesan

2 09 2009

Ok, I’m lying, it wasn’t really Sunday supper, it was actually a Tuesday supper. And it was amazing. But I would make it on Sunday too. It’s a pretty easy dish that takes around an hour, less if you are organized in your approach.

Baked Chicken Parmesan
serves 4
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4″
1 egg
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
5-10 fresh basil leaves, torn (use 1 tsp of dried basil if you don’t have fresh)
1 Tbsp butter
2 balls of fresh mozzarella, sliced into 1/4″ or thinner pieces

Preheat oven to 375°.

Place chicken breasts between two sheets of saran wrap (with a little water between the chicken & plastic to help smoother movement). Using a meat mallet, cast iron frying pan, rolling pin, etc pound the breasts to 1/4″ thick. Grease a 9×13 pan. Scramble an egg in one plate/pan. Mix bread crumbs through basil leaves in another. Drag each breast through the egg and then the bread crumb mixture to coat completely. Place in 9×13″ dish. Dot the butter around the chicken.

If you have the time, stick the pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to baking, it will improve the crispiness. If not, go ahead and bake at 375° for 35 minutes or until juices run clear. Be sure to add the mozzarella cheese with about 5-8 minutes left of baking time so it gets nice and melty.

As soon as you put the chicken in the oven, start your tomato sauce. I use the recipe from Silver Spoon cookbook, which is amazing, but use your favorite or a canned sauce for ease.

Salsa di Pomodoro
compliments of Silver Spoon
4 servings
9 ounces canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes, peeled
pinch of sugar
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons olive oil
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
salt

Put the tomatoes with their can juice, if using canned tomatoes, into a pan and add the sugar, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook over a very low heat for about 30 minutes without sitrring. Mash the tomatoes iwht a wooden spoon and, if using canned tomatoes, cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. Stir in the olive oil and basil.

I served mine over spaghetti, but would like to try it over penne or orzo next time. I needed an excuse to use my spaghetti measurer we bought in Italy. Each hole is for one more serving. But I think it is more like the first hole = 2 servings, second = 4, and on. It was a lot of pasta. Isn’t it cute? It’s made of wood from an olive tree. It smells like olives.

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two servings of pasta (i am sick of the orange light indoors so went out back for the pic)

The finished product. Served with pan sauteed broccolini.

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baked chicken parmesan over spaghetti

And of course, because we were celebrating our 4 year engage-a-versary we opened a nice Italian Vino Nobile (no-be-lay) Di Montepulciano. Yum!

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bindella vino nobile

Hope you enjoy the meal if you try it, we both loved it!





Getting Close to Harvest Time

1 09 2009

Well, our summer days are still around, but they are certainly dwindling. I think we are having more cool, cloudy days than bright, hot sun. Which means it’s time for those giant tomatoes to start ripening and that watermelon to jump on in (Winda has left us, she did not survive, but she has about 15 brothers and sisters) if they want to enjoy an evening in our kitchen.

I decided on Monday morning I wanted to see how the carrots were progressing. I did the test and felt around the top of the plant and it was a perfect width, so I pulled it up. And this is what I found….

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first carrot harvested in 2009

Yeah, so. It’s only about 2 1/2″ long, but it’s beautiful! I left the rest in the ground. But I cut this one up to give it a try. It was a perfect compliment to our carne asada tacos on Monday night. Check it out below, it’s yellow inside! The taste is perfect, kind of sweet and spicy at first and then when you chew it, it’s sweet like a carrot. Very good.

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the purple carrot is actually yellow!

Every week, I’ve been taking a cutting of my crimson dahlias (I only have one yellow dinner plate, so it stays on display outside), some hydrangeas, and a cosmos or two. They spruce up the home office for me. Long days of conference calls can get grueling, flowers are not!

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cosmos, hydrangea, dahlia

Tonight I plucked some fresh basil for our dinner, which I’ll share with you tomorrow. The basil smells so ridiculously good. I love fresh herbs. I need to freeze the rest of our basil, I think!

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delicious, fragrant basil