Friday, July 24, 2015

On Using Up Eggplants and Living The Dream...

Happy Friday, Sunshines!

Today's eggplant harvest.

They were labeled Japanese eggplants when I bought the seedlings, but my friend Kay pointed out that they look more like Chinese ones, and I think she's probably right. I'm thinking I'll get another one or two harvests from them before they quit on me for the season, but that's just a feeling I get. I don't really know much about eggplant behavior - this is my first time growing them.

We've enjoyed them in Korean style banchan...

in a Greek-inspired stew preparation (no pic), and in a ratatouille type thing over pasta so far.

The last ones left from the last harvest will probably get thrown into some kind of generally hotspicy Chinese inspired dish with the last of this week's pork shoulder for tonight's dinner (or maybe a Thai-inspired coconut curry), and I'm pretty sure there's some baba ganoush and/or melitzanosalata in our future, too.

Things have been busier around here than they have in a while as I've begun to ease myself back into teaching a few cooking classes and as Dean, our pal Jean-Louis, and I have begun to actualize a long-held dream of creating small scale, fun, casual, and globally inspired delicious eat-drink events locally. Events where we hope to share our love of good food, drink, and camaraderie in a truly convivial atmosphere with others who value the same.

Somewhere in there, Dean and I are still trying to eke out music whenever we can because the dream... THE DREAM... is to one day play a good set and serve some great food and drink on the same night to an appreciative audience. And then maybe find a way to make that repeatable and sustainable. Just maybe...

That has always been our shared dream. 

And so we're chipping away at it when we can, how we can. 

And sometimes we lose focus, and drive eludes us.

We try to make sure it's for good reasons, like enjoying a little impromptu sunset picnic on the bay with friends...

Or just embracing the sweet moments life has to offer...

But sometimes it's just because we're being lazy and static and allowing ourselves to be stifled by our own inertia.

Sometimes it's 2 steps forward and 2 steps back.

But sometimes it's 2 steps forward and 1.75 steps back.

Or sometimes we really get our asses in gear and it's 2 steps forward and only 1 step back.

But it's always an exercise in learning and growing together, supporting one another in our individual endeavors, working together through and toward our shared goals, and trying to keep our relationships with our loved ones well cared for in the process.

Lots of trial and error, lots of prioritizing and reprioritizing, lots of failures, and lots of lessons...

But mostly it's just lots of loving and living and gradually trying all the things we ever thought we wanted to give a shot, so I guess I can say we really are blessed to be living our own little dream, imperfectly though we may be doing it. :)

Doesn't always look like success, but it feels right, and I'm happy and grateful to be getting to experience it all. <3

And now off to the kitchen to decide about some eggplants.

I hope you have a delicious Friday night dinner and a most loverly weekend,


P.S. What I ended up making with the yet more eggplant. Details HERE. :)

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Edamammus (Edamame Hummus)

Happy Thursday, Sunshines!

On the heels of Peacamolegate, I present to you... EDAMAMMUS.

Borne of way too much leftover edamame in my life.

Which probably wouldn't have happened had I bought edamame in the pods - because people seem to find edamame in pods quite irresistible - but I bought the pre-shelled ones for my Women's Cookshop Bigass Salad Bar Meetup, and I figured they'd be convenient as salad toppings.

Just a few ingredients whizzed up in the food processor or blender until fairly smooth, and you have a healthful and delicious hummus type dip to enjoy with your dipping medium of choice.

Makes about 2.5 cups dip

- 2 cups pre-shelled edamame, cooked per package instructions
- 1/4 cup light olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 medium lemons)
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil + extra for drizzling
- 2 to 3 medium cloves garlic, rough chopped
- 1 to 1.25 teaspoons kosher salt
- toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Just add all ingredients except sesame seeds (starting at the lower end of the measurements) to your food processor or blender and whiz until smooth, remembering to scrape the sides down two or three times to reincorporate the chunks that get flung outward back into the mix to get blended.

If you're using a blender, you'll want to make sure to start on a slow setting and pulse several times to get the ingredients into the blade and then carefully steer the ingredients on the sides to the center using a spatula or wooden spoon.

Once dip is smooth, taste and adjust seasoning to your liking, give it all another good, thorough whiz, and that's it.

Put dip in bowl, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and drizzle with a little extra toasted sesame oil, and serve.

I had it with toast today because that's what I had on hand...

But I'm thinking maybe next time, I'll undersalt it just a bit and have it with some large senbei (aka sembei) to tie that whole generally Japanese theme together.

Hope you enjoy. :)


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sunflowers from the market and some melon vine clippings from my compost bed experiment gone wild for height and fill.

I love fresh flowers and I love having a garden.

Also, tendrils are delightful.

Happy Humpday, Sunshines. :)


Monday, July 6, 2015

Welcome to Our Little Garden :)

Happy Monday, Sunshines!

Hope all is groovy with you. We had a lovely, mellow holiday weekend celebrating MAP's 77th and Bella's 3rd birthdays.

Over the past 2.5 years or so since we moved into our little casita, a few of you have asked for progress pics of the yard as I began the experiment that has become my love affair with gardening.

A few of you have also asked just how little is little - 3 bedrooms and about 1,000 s.f. is how little. People have also wondered how we manage with 2 adults, 2 teens, and 1 toddler in such a small space, and the short answer is that our space is just big enough for all of it to be comfortable and constantly useful and utilized, and we rather like it that way. Same goes for our yard, which probably covers roughly the same square footage, give or take a few. :)

When we moved in, the yard was minimally landscaped with a flipper's idea of just enough to sell the house. Which worked. Because it was just enough to sell us. 

A couple of Birds of Paradise as we entered the gate, which I proceeded to extract when I took a walk around the neighborhood and saw how big, scraggly and unwieldy they could get, specially since they were planted near the garage structure; a patch of grass at the end of the courtyard area that eventually got removed when we decided that lawn in our climate was a water and maintenance black hole as well as a summertime flea haven that was not remotely worth the effort and resources; and some old brown mulch in the back yard that was eventually raked over to one corner, leaving the back yard essentially a dirt and weed lot for at least a couple of years before we started doing anything with it.

None of the original landscaping remains, and we have slowly and gradually subtracted and added as time, motivation, desire, budget, and a reasonable eye toward sustainability have allowed. As with everything in our lives, it is a living, breathing, and ever dynamic work in progress. No huge single capital expenditures and no overnight transformations. Just a constant practice of care, adornment, affection, and enjoyment of the outdoor part of the place we call Home.

Now time for the grand tour... ;)

Our yard is L shaped, so I'll try to take you through it as though you were walking from the front gate around to the back yard.

This is the view as you enter our front gate. To the right was where the Birds of Paradise were planted. It's been through a few seasonal flowers and perennial ground covers, but we are settling for the time being on a couple of climbers for height on the bare walls and some red mulch for ground color.

To the far left, you can see my two "rusted gold" baker's racks turned plant shelves that I found on Craigslist for $20 each after I decided not to buy similar "antique" shelves in Fallbrook for $100 a piece. ;)

If you take a few steps into the courtyard and look behind you, a bougainvillea with an accidental cantaloupe vine flanked by some potted color.

We have these large terra cotta pots throughout the yard a) because I love terra cotta and b) because they're relatively inexpensive for that size pot ($20 at Home Depot). For my fellow San Diegans, speaking of a fantastic selection of planters at great prices, you should check out Planter Paradise in El Cajon.

As you turn back around and keep walking, our little al fresco dining area...

And to the right of the patio table, our money tree (our very first plant purchase for this house) flanked by a clearance plant whose name I can't remember at the moment to the left and a lovely hibiscus I received as a gift to the right.

When the hibiscus is in bloom, it is the most gorgeous color...

Across from that is yet another bougainvillea. They love this climate, and I love how their bracts look against white stucco. 

And just before the back yard, we have Bella's Beach (aka What We Did With That Useless Lawn). This was the most labor and cost intensive thing we've done to the yard to date. Took a lot of work to dig out the lawn and many, MANY bags of play sand to fill the space, but though I don't remember the exact numbers, I do recall that we recouped the sand expense in water savings within half a year or so. The sand does need to be topped off from time to time because wind and rain and such, but it's minimal now that it's pretty much filled.

The pansies to the right have been an inexpensive gift (and wonderful splash of color!) that keeps on giving since I planted them early this year.

Here's an earlier pic of the area from when we'd just put up our mesh shade tarp, which was the most cost effective shade solution we could find for the area. Details on that HERE if you're interested.

We got the picnic table unassembled at Home Depot for $98. Dean assembled it, and I stained it with a couple of coats of Thompson's Water Seal. We're about due for another coat, but it's pretty low maintenance, and it gives us 6 extra adult seats when we invite our friends over for a shindig.

And for our very latest yard improvement, the back yard, which we finally re-mulched with red mulch back in April after scrapping much more costly and permanent landscaping plans that involved decks and gravel. Just a few terra cotta colored pavers against several bags of inexpensive red mulch have made a huge difference in the visual appeal of the back yard.

That's Bella's balance beam to the left. Cheap entertainment for her while mom gardens. ;)

To the left of the path, you can see where we repurposed the gate that Dean removed from the fence as a trellis for our pink jasmine.

Straight ahead is the repurposed doggie gate trellis that we use to support our clematis. More about that HERE.

A closeup of the very first planter boxes we bought for this house. They've been moved a few times and now have to be reinforced with dried mud to hold the joints together, but that seems to be a totally workable solution so far.

And then as we round the corner to the rest of our tiny back yard, our two newer planter boxes, the first filled with my Great Compost Bed Experiment, and the second yet to get planted. (It's currently a drying area for all my garden clippings before they get thrown into the compost pile as much needed dry matter.)

And then Dean's little grilling and smoking area for which we are slowly seeking an aesthetically pleasing grill shelter as well as replacement lounging furniture to tie the whole area together better. I'm sure something gently used and to our liking will turn up eventually. We like the idea of giving durable goods a little extra life before they get dumped in a landfill somewhere.

And against our back wall, our two dwarf citrus trees (Mexican lime on the left, Eureka lemon on the right) and yet another bougainvillea in yet more of those inexpensive terra cotta planters.

And finally the view returning to the patio...

Having finally done something (minimal though it may be) with our back yard, we're now in a place where we no longer feel like negligent homeowners with a nagging repair from which we keep averting our attention.

This little yard has become my sanctuary where my daily meditation happens in the form of caring for the life that grows within it and marveling at the ongoing cycle of life, death, and renewal that is constantly taking place there.

No doubt things will continue to get added, subtracted, and rearranged as it pleases us (and our plants!), and I look forward to continuing to share the evolution of this space with you.

Thanks as always for your interest and enthusiasm. <3


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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Good morning from the garden! :)

Good morning from the garden, Sunshines! :)

Today's little harvest - 10 little Japanese eggplants (my first ones!!! >.<), and then, from left to right, Moroccan mint, purple perilla, Vietnamese coriander, and sweet basil.

I'll be putting the herbs into our Summer Rolls tonight, and I'm thinking the eggplants will get made into a ratatouille-type preparation.

Excited about this weekend's little birthday celebration for MAP and Bella (his is today, hers is on the 4th) and about my very first upcoming North County Women's Cookshop get together next week!

Also generally stoked to have all my monsters at home during the day during Summer break. Love having them all together under the same roof.

Lots to get done, so off I go.

Wishing you a loverly Thursday.