Wednesday, July 9, 2014


 Day 1 - seeds and seedlings in Memorial Day weekend

Week 3 - can you believe how much growth there is already?


Week 4 - the proud farmer

We're already on week 6! More photos to come

First Zucchini

We went out to inspect the garden, a frequent evening routine of ours, and we found two large zucchini! One that even got a little too large. We had been keeping eyes on the zucchini so these must have slipped under the radar. The others are still about 3/4" diameter.

We also picked some gigantic mustard green leaves which had also exploded in the last few days. You'll also see some jalapeños and a bowl of blueberries (with one golden raspberry and one pink champagne raspberry). We're so excited to have blueberries, and they're already producing quite a bit. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

On to the edible plants!

Okay, so I covered the "sun perennial" bed yesterday. Today I'll show some photos of all the edible goodies we've got growing. To be fair, the sun perennial bed does have rhubarb (edible) which we didn't have room for in the vegetable garden,  as well as lavender (edible) and thyme (edible) because they're pretty of course.

So to the west of the sun perennial garden, even farther back in our yard, we created a vegetable bed. We tilled the soil *by hand* [note: we rented a tiller, but only after we did the vegetable bed!! The tiller helped us break up the soil in the "shade perennial" bed, which I'll cover next, as well as the sun perennial bed and where we planted the raspberries]
The bed is 8 ft by 16 ft. Originally we had eyeballed the bed and created 9 x 17 but it shrunk a bit when we decided to edge it with 8 ft long cedar planks. Cedar holds up well and is safe to use around plants so we went with that, as compared to pressure treated wood. We used brick around the other gardens, but I like the wood here. We also put up a fence to deter pests, rabbits mostly. The fence is green and hard to see, but down low the wires are close together. Fingers crossed it does the trick!

So below is the photo of the garden side closest to the house, the east third of the garden. This photo was taken at 5pm and it's still got some sun. What you're looking at here are tomatoes and peppers. All planted from starter plants (ie, not seeds). The back right trellis has a Yellow Pear tomato plant, and a Sun Gold tomato plant. The back left trellis has a Cherokee Purple tomato plant and two sweet 1000s tomato plants. In the forground, you'll see two rows of peppers. The row in the middle of the garden, on the left and in the center spot are two Serrano Pepper plants. In the same row but on the right is an Apache Pepper plant. In the row in the foreground, on the left and in the center are two Purple Bell Pepper plants, with a Jalapeno Pepper plant on the right. The Apache Pepper plant and Jalapeno Pepper plant already have peppers developing!

Below is the center section of the garden (again, this photo was taken at 5pm), in which we have another trellis - in the top right of the photo. Planted there are Green Beans and Fava Beans (aka Broad Beans). In the back left are four zucchini plants. In the middle of this section, on the left are four Delicata Squash plants, and on the right are four Butternut Squash plants. In shaded foreground, on the left, yet to be seen, will be cucumber, and on the right is one lone okra plant!

Lastly, below is a photo of the far edge of the bed, the west edge. Again, the photo here is at 5pm, and this edge is in shade already. You can't see anything yet, but we are looking at three sections with lots of different seeds planted. In the top row, for lack of a better word, will be Peas on the left, Cantaloupe in the middle and Onions on the right, by the step stones. In the center row, we have Beets on the left, Fennel in the middle and two types of Kale on the right. Finally, in the bottom row, the third closest to you, we have Butter Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Rainbow Chard and Mustard Greens. If you look closely you can see the Mustard Green sprouts already showing.

Here's a close up of the beet sprouts peeking through! Can you see their red stems?

On the deck we have a few potted plants. Mostly herbs, but there's a fig tree in there second from the left! The fig tree even already has a few figs starting out, which is fun to see!

Also on the deck is a elevated planter (a raised bed on stilts). In it we have carrots, arugula and beets. We planted the carrots and radishes when the weather turned to spring six weeks ago. The arugula went in earlier this month and we could already pick it if we wanted "baby arugula"! The elevated bed is nice because the rabbits don't get to it.

Oh, behind the vegetable garden you might have noticed three very large planters. We have blueberry bushes in them! Blueberries need acidic soil so we put them in planters so it's a bit easier to control the acidity of the soil. We'll see how it goes. The plants we purchased already have some blueberries forming on them so hopefully we'll get a few this year to taste. 

And, on the south edge of our back yard, we dug up a little section to plant some raspberry bushes. We have three different types of raspberries. On the left is "Double Gold" a blush-champagne colored raspberry, in the middle is "Crimson Night" a deep red raspberry, and on the right is "Fall Gold" a golden raspberry. 

That's it for now! I'll post about the trench soon (our temporary solution for ground and surface water management).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We're Growing Things!!!

A year ago, when I was still in San Francisco and I would day dream about moving to Ann Arbor, one of the things I was most excited about was having a garden. By the time we got here in July, we were just too overwhelmed to plant more than a few things in the fall. This weekend, thanks to the enormous help of my sister and brother-in-law, we finally established several garden beds in our backyard! I am so excited!!

I've always loved the idea of growing things, but never had much practice (except of the killing plants variety). My mother is an excellent gardener, as were her parents, but as a child I never had the patience to learn how to garden. Now that I am a bit older, calmer and wiser I see the value and joy in gardening. (I don't think my 18 year old self would have believed I'd ever say that.)

I'm going to try to post pictures on this blog, as well as on Instagram, to show off any progress we have (despite any rabbit's attempt to thwart us). So you'll need to stay tuned!

A trip down memory lane... Here's what our back yard looked like in the fall with Jason mowing the lawn!

 And here's what it looked like in December. This was before the polar vortex and storms in January and February!

Now, here's what it looks like! Please ignore the dirt trench in the foreground... I'll explain later.

It all started when my Aunt Bea brought 9 (nine!) peony bushes, just the roots of course, in November, and we planted them just to the left of the telephone pole on the right side of the above photo. Those are also marked with sticks in the snow photo. (We marked them with sticks because we didn't want to step on the delicate buds as they were coming up.) We turned the area in between and behind into a bed that we could plant other sun-loving perennials in.

The fence edge is north, so this bed gets direct sunlight until about 5pm. In addition to the peonies we planted... Corsican mint (ground cover in the foreground, can actually take light foot traffic!), Lavender - two in middle (two to left, just out of the photo) and Dwarf Lilac in the back.

In the same bed, in the front of the photo below is Silver Edged Thyme, on the left is another Peony and in the back center are two more lavender plants.

The Peony buds are starting to open! I can't wait for these to bloom!!

Here below, on the west-end of the sun-loving perennial bed we planted Rhubarb!! It's too big for the veggie garden, and it's a perennial so we put it in the peony bed.  In the front center, and to the very far right, just barely in the frame, are creeping phylox!

We edged the bed with pavers and covered the freshly tilled soil with cypress mulch. We hope it'll keep the grass and dandelions at bay, although I see a lot of weeding in our future.

Look forward to the vegetable garden update in a separate post!!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

French Toast

How has it been over a year since my last post? Wow. Gotta love that french toast is what brings me back. Maybe it's because I'm home on a lazy Saturday for the first time in, oh, over a month. Maybe it's because we had leftover challah and I improvised a french toast recipe that was so delicious I just had to share it. Regardless, I'm back. We've made quite a few dishes here in our kitchen in Ann Arbor that are "dinner party worthy", i.e., it is not the slop we make for our selves that we're too embarrassed to serve to other people. I'll start to share the "dinner party worthy" dishes we've concocted, so you can see what we're up to here in our new home.

Still-sleepy French Toast

4 thick (3/4") slices of Challah
1 cup milk (we used 1% since we had it in the fridge)
1/4 cup liquid egg whites (or egg beaters)
1 egg (note, if you don't have egg beaters or just want to use eggs, use a total of 3 eggs)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp brown sugar
pinch of salt
pat of butter
real maple syrup (d'uh) 

In 9x13 pyrex, or other shallow baking dish, combine milk, liquid whites, egg, vanilla, brown sugar and salt. Stir with fork to mix well. Add slices of challah in single layer. After about three minutes, flip slices of bread to let the other side sit in liquid mixture. 

In a large skillet (I used non-stick), heat a small pat of butter (maybe 1/2 tablespoon) on medium heat. Add however many slices of french toast will fit in a single layer. Fry for a few minutes then flip once golden, then fry on the other side.  Do the second (and third if necessary) batch, adding a little butter as needed. 

Serve warm with more butter and real maple syrup. Delicious!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Zucchini Muffins

This recipe I adapted from smitten kitchen's zucchini bread recipe (here)

I wanted to lighten it up just a little so I could eat 'em for breakfast, and maybe, just maybe, Jason would have a few.

3 eggs (would have subbed with egg beaters but we were out)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup non-fat yogurt

11 oz shredded zucchini (about 5 x-small zucchini, equals about 2.5-3 cup shredded)
2 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 350º
2. In large bowl, mix eggs, oil, sugar, yogurt
3. In separate bowl, mix flours, spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
4. Shred zucchini (I used food processor) and add to liquids. Add vanilla. Mix
5. Add dries to wets, and fold to evenly distributed. As a matter of principal I tried not to overmix, but I think you'll be decently protected because the shredded zucchini will be in the way of you overmixing.
6. Portion in to paper lined muffin cups
7. Bake 25 min. I switched racks and rotated pans after 20 min, probably not necessary though.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rhubarb Crumb Cake

Combine rhubarb that needs to be used up and a lazy Saturday afternoon and you get rhubarb crumb cake. I checked Smitten Kitchen (my starting place for most receipes) and sure enough found exactly what I was looking for. See her recipe here (

I adapted it only slightly out of necessity (little short on sugar, no sour cream), but I'm hoping it'll turn out similar to hers.

Here is the recipe with my adjustments.

12 oz rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch lengths on the diagonal
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (psst, skip ahead and zest it for the cake before you cut it)

1/2 cup  unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups  all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup non-fat yogurt

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350º
1. Mix the cut rhubarb with the first amount of sugar (2/3 cup) and lemon juice. Set aside.
2. Cream butter, sugars and zest until light and fluffy
3. Scrape down, and add eggs one at a time, mixing well
4. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, ginger in a separate bowl
5. Add flour and yogurt in alternating batches (flour, yogurt, flour, yogurt, flour)
6. Take a 9x13 ish size baking pan, line with parchment (you can drap it over so only the long edges are lined).
7. Spread batter into pan, I used an offset spatula like she suggested. Top with rhubarb in an even layer. (I threw the juice that settled to the bottom of the bowl too).
8. Make the crumb by combining all ingredients except butter. Mix to combine. Add melted butter and stir with a fork. You can be agressive to incorporate dries and bust up the big pieces. Sprinkle crumb evenly on top of rhubarb.
9. Bake 50-60 min (i rotated it after 35 and checked it at 45). Check to make sure it's cooked through in the middle (use a toothpick) before removing it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Steamed cod with ginger

I typed this up from an old issue of Everyday Food (magazine), and accidentaly published the post. Looks like it was a popular item though, so I'll leave this post up - even though I haven't made this yet!

Let me know how it is!

4 scallions, white and green parts separated and sliced
2 Tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp red-pepper flakes
1 tsp sugar
coarse salt
4 skinless cod fillets (6 oz each)
(rice to serve..)

1. In a shallow 2 quart microwave safe dish with a lid, stir together scallion whites, ginger, vinager, oil, red pepper flakes and sugar. season with salt. marinate cod in dish 20 min, turning once.

2. Cover and microwave on high 5 minutes, let stand, covered until fish is opaque throughout, 5 minutes. top wiht scallion greens. serve fish with rice if desired.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Back to blogging and baking?

You might have noticed that I'm trying to post more... more recipes that I make, more meals out, more easy ideas, more vegetarian meals, and more cakes!

Let me know if there are any requests. Now that I have this thing called "time", I hope to be cooking more often! and baking more wedding cakes too..

Black Bean Burgers

We made up gigantic pot of black beans earlier in the week, so we wanted to make something to use them up. Black bean burgers it was!

I pulled out the food processor and mixed up the ingredients. Had to add some more almond meal after I saw that the first ones I fried up were too mushy... fry them up one or two at a time, so you can play with the consistency and do what works for you. If you are making them to be served on buns - you might need to add more almond meal to thicken them up.

2 cups cooked black beans
1 Tbsp dijon mustard,
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp minced onions
2 Tbsp minced cilantro
1 cup (ish) almond meal
1 egg

serve with:
butter lettuce leaves
tomatoes, sliced
red and yellow peppers, roasted
onions, super thinly sliced
hot sauce
dijon mustard

1. Roast off the peppers first. Put peppers directly over open flame on stove (if you don't have a gas stove.. put on burner?? I don't know what to do in that case..) Once the peppers are good and charred, place them in a bowl and put plastic wrap on top, OR put in a brown paper bag. Basically you are just trying to trap the steam as the peppers cool, which helps the charred skin be peeled off of the pepper flesh. mmmm...

here are the peppers roasting.
2. Place all ingredients to make burgers (black beans, mustard, garlic, onions, cilantro, almond meal, egg) in food processor. Pulse until well mixed.

3. Form patties and place in oil in a medium fry pan that is over medium-high heat. Fry on both sides for a few minutes. You'll have to play around here with the right amount of heat, oil, time, etc...

4. Serve burgers with lettuce (topped or topless) and all the fixin's.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Stuffed Red Peppers

Our take on stuffed red peppers: tofu and almond meal in the filling and plenty of chives - that we grew (!!) on top.

These were super quick and easy to make, yet something I like to jokingly call "dinner party worthy". Some of our quick weeknight dinners leave something to be desired in the looks category, but this one I would gladly serve to guests!

1 pack Tofu (1 lb)
1/2 cup Almond Meal (blanched, not blanched, whatever)
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
2 Tbps Pesto
1 small-medium onion
italian spices (oregano, thyme, red pepper, etc..)
2 - 4 Red Peppers (one per person)
1 bunch Chives

note: we made this a few weeks ago, I hope these instructions are accurate enough!

-preheat oven to 375 deg-
1. Mince up the onion and sauté until translucent.
2. Take the tofu, cut it up into small pieces (about 1/4"). Toss in a big bowl.
3. Add the onions, the tomato paste, pesto and almond meal to the tofu in the bowl. Stir it up. Add a little salt, pepper, oregano, thyme, red pepper, etc.. to your taste preferences.
4. Take the tops off the peppers by cutting around the stem with a paring knife. Pull out the center with the white part and seeds. Use your hands to remove any that stayed behind.
5. Fill the peppers with the stuffing mixture. Put stuffed peppers in a pyrex dish or whatnot
6. Bake until tops are uber golden (if I recall it took about 45 min?!) Top with chives and serve!

note: this filling made way more than enough for two peppers... we filled reusable silicon muffin cups with the filling, and baked it for about 20 min - until golden. Those were super good reheated later in the week, almost like vegetarian meatballs!

Friday, March 25, 2011

No really, you came to New York to cook?!?

We cook a lot in SF. In the Bay Area, I think it's expected that you both know how to cook, and enjoy cooking. So it's no surprise many people cook together, as you know, a 'fun' thing to do.

Well, I flew to NY to visit people, and visiting friends includes cooking with friends. Revolutionary I know. I have been told that New York is known for food, and I am sure that the city knows what it's doing... but so do Joyce and I! Why go out to eat, when you can spend the evening catching up, and hearing amazing stories, all while trying to figure out how to make quinoa burgers? Don't get me wrong, I enjoy going out to eat as a treat, but I adore cooking and dining with friends. Life can't get much better than that.

Brooklyn Quinoa Burgers on the Fly
(take this recipe as a really rough guide, this is beyond approximate)

2 c cooked quinoa (leftovers!)
1 small onion
4 cloves garlic
1 carrot
1/4 c chopped parsley
1 cup dried mushrooms, rehydrated and drained
a melange of french and italian herbs (herbs de provence, oregano and tarragon)
leftover prune apple duck gravy (true story)
2 eggs
some matzo meal

brioche buns
fontina, sliced

1. Mince onion and garlic, sautee
2. Fine chop in food processor the drained rehydrated dried mushrooms, carrot, and parsley.
3. Add onion garlic, pulse a little to mix.
4. Add maybe 1/2 cup of gravy and pulse into mixture
5. Dump into bowl, add in quinoa and 2 eggs and some matzo
6. In a pan, heat up some canola (or whatever) oil, make a patty and fry one to check consistency. Add more egg/matzo as needed
7. Fry up patties, remember to be gentle. If you don't manhandle it, it will stay together. Low heat, slowly getting brown will help.
note: when burgers are done, throw the cheese on top of the patties with a lid on for a few minutes, that'll melt it.
8. Eat on toasted brioche bun with watercress, tomato and mustard and melted fontina.

I've always loved burgers

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SFO-JFK for mexican food?

I know, I know, what on earth am I doing eating mexican food in NYC not 12 hours after leaving SF? Well, there's this great new place, Pachanga Patterson in Astoria (Queens) that is serving up fresh local fare with an obvious mexican twist.

(Sorry the pic was as good as it was gonna get! I need to bring my camera next time!)

We ordered the trio of salsas and fresh fried chips to start on while we were sipping on our south of the border inspired cocktails. I enjoyed the anticuado, a tequila cocktail with blood orange slices and bitters. Since I hadn't eaten all day, I knew an entree wouldn't satisfy, so I also ordered the cheese quesadilla, which was excellent. The main course for me was the 'veggie jenga' - two tostadas piled with radicchio, avocado and beans, topped with a fried egg and sitting on sweet potato puree. It was fantastic, and a very large portion. My dining partners all enjoyed their tacos, the chipotle braised short ribs being the winner.

Here's how the restaurant describe their own cuisine (from their website)

"For years we've worked in all kinds of restaurants - Asian, pan-Asian, seasonal American, new American, rustic Italian, upscale Italian - but at the end of the night, after the last customer has left, the food that comes out of every NYC restaurant kitchen is decidedly Mexican. The cooks primarily from Mexico, take the ingredients available and create Mexican-influenced food for the rest of the staff. It's family meal Mexican style. We've come to love this mash-up of Mexican and NYC. It's fresh, delicious, uncomplicated and without pretense. This restaurant is dedicated to our restaurant family.

If you ever find yourself in these parts, I'd definitely hit up Pachanga Patterson.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Pho by The Real Mamma Dang

Last night I went to my good friends' house for a special dinner. Homemade pho. Her parents were in town, so it was a chance for me to "learn" how to make it. She explained all the steps, and I got to watch, but I don't think she was ready to chance the outcome on my helping out! The house smelled wonderful, and the soup was amazing.

No recipe, but here's the gist.

Homemade Mamma Dang Pho
Beef Marrow
Ox Tail
Flank Steak
Onions, 3 whole
White Radish, 2 peeled
Star Anise
Fish Sauce
Rice Noodles
Bean Sprouts

for garnishing at the table:
Cilantro, Basil, Mint, Green Onions - chopped
Red Onion, thinly sliced
Additional Bean Sprouts
Sliced Lemon
Hoisin, Oyster and Sriracha Sauces

Boil beef marrow bones in a small pot of water to 'clean' them.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a simmer with the three large white onions.

After the bone marrow are clean (don't ask me how long this took...maybe 30 min?), rinse them in fresh water. Rinse the oxtail, and rinse the flank steak in water.

Add meat to big pot of simmering water. Add star anise, large chopped radish, and boil until the flank steak is chopstick tender (that is, you can easily stick a chopstick in it!)

Cook rice noodles.

Add broth, sliced meat and heated meat balls, bean sprouts and serve at the table with garnishes.

At least I think that's how it went down.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Roasted Dinner (When we're lazy but still cook)

We probably have a roasted dinner once a week. This colorful dish comes together quickly, and just somehow made enough for a little leftovers.

Roasted Confetti Veggies with Tofu and Tempeh
Bunch Broccoli
Head Cauliflower, white
Head Cauliflower, purple
Half, large jalapeno, finely sliced
Half an onion, finely sliced
Super firm, vacuum packed tofu
paprika, to taste
cayenne, to taste

Heat oven to 425 deg.

Chop up veggies, but use that stalk! After cutting off florets, peel the base with the knife if really thick, then chop up into small pieces.

Put a good glug of olive oil on the bottom of two sheet pans.

On the sheet pans, mix cubed tofu, tempeh, chopped veggies and some salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika.

Bake in the oven 'til done' (you'll get used to me saying that). I'd give it 20-30 minutes. Make sure it's brown on the edges though, that's the best part.

1) Try to have vegetables be a size so they cook in the same amount of time. That is, all the florets the same size, but the stalk pieces smaller so they cook in the same amount of time as the florets!

2) Don't crowd the sheet pan. You want your veggies roasting, not steaming!

3) HOT oven! 425 works for my oven, experiment with yours.

Do you think we made enough??