Saturday, July 11, 2015

5 Best New Gardening Tips

These gardening ideas might not be strictly new - but they were new to me this year, and my garden is happier for them!  They save my soil, my back, and my time.  This year my garden is better than ever.  Here is what worked for me:

1. I got a long-handled trowel.

Long-handled trowels really save a lot of strain on your back.  You can do all that precision digging and weeding without bending down to reach the ground!

I looked all over for something like this.  Apparently we don't usually sell these in the USA.  I finally found these Joseph Bentley traditional garden tools from England, available only online.

2. I switched my cover crop to Buckwheat.

Buckwheat is a cover crop that's excellent for summer time.  It sprouts really quickly compared to other cover crops, and it grows great even when it's hot out.  And of course it's gluten free. Read more about buckwheat as a cover crop here.

3. I make bouquets out of garden plants.

This bouquet was assembled from leek flowers and marigolds that happened to be growing in my garden.  Vegetables flower too!

4. I started using a precision weeding tool.

This weeder is really narrow, which helps to scoop out weeds by the root without disturbing the plants next door.  

5. The 10-Second Rule: water each plant for 10 seconds.

I helped my 9-year-old niece start her first garden this year, and I showed her how I've started watering.  It saves a ton of time, and it helps make sure all the plants in the garden get enough water during the hot days we've been having.  Simply hose each plant down on full blast for 10 full seconds, then move on to the next.  Previously I had been spraying each bed down until it looked wet - a method that led to uneven watering.  This way I know each plant gets enough.  My niece dubbed this method the 10-Second Rule, and it works!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Earliest First Tomato of the Year!

I try to record the first ripe tomato in my garden every year.  This year is a record - June 30th!  It's not even July yet, according to the calendar.  The thermostat on the other hand says differently.  It has been blazing hot in Portland, and it's not looking to let up any time soon.

To put this recent heat wave in perspective, I'm usually craving some sun and a hot day on June 30th.  It's usually still reliably 65°f and rainy right about now.  Fourth of July weekend is the first moment a Portlander can expect to see the sun - and she really looks forward to it.

This year, I'm really lucky to be escaping to the coast on the 4th.  I'm looking forward to the clouds and cooler weather - a complete reversal of my usual M.O.!

So, suffice it to say, the weather has been weird this year, and my garden has loved it so far, even though I have been wilting at times.  Without further ado, the much-anticipated photo of my first ripe tomato of the season.  They are supposed to be orange!

Sun Gold Tomato
I grow one of these plants from a start that I buy at the Portland Farmer's Market each year.  Sun Gold tomatoes are a cherry-sized variety that are orange, very sweet, and very early - they are tolerant of the cool spring weather we often have, but love the sun too.  They always ripen before my Early Girls.  The only problem I have with them is that sometimes they are TOO prolific - it's hard to keep up.  Also, they turn pasta sauce orange so it's a bit harder to preserve them.  I end up giving a lot of them away.  However, if you just plant one tomato, think about using this variety.  They are great in a salad.  I planted this one in late April, so it took about 60 days to mature, but I think it can mature in 45 if it's hot.  It's a good plant if you are starting your garden late (like now!).

For some more historical perspective, here is some of my tomato documentation from years past:

2014 - Mid-July
2013 - Mid-July
2012 - July 3rd
2011 - August 5th
2010 - July 23rd
2009 - July 17th
2008 - Sometime in September (I got my garden in late)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Cochinita Pibil in the Slow Cooker

One of the things that I promised myself after returning from Hiatus 2015 was that I'd figure out how to make Cochinita Pibil.  It's kind of a regional specialty in the Yucatan and all the restaurants compete for the title of "Best Cochinita."  So I made it yesterday for the first time.  Here's the method:
Chicken Pibil
1. Go to a cute Mexican store.  I chose Mercado Don Pancho on Alberta because it's like a portal to another world.  Why spend so much money on a plane ticket when you can just go to the Mercado and be instantly transported to another country?  There I purchased a small package of Achiote for

Monday, March 16, 2015

Deluxe Pastry Flour Blend

Use this pastry flour blend for all pie crusts, pastries, and waffles, or as an all-purpose flour.

GF Pastry Flour Blend

150g white rice flour
50g sorghum flour
25g tapioca flour
25g potato starch
4g (1.5 tsp) xanthan gum

Mix thoroughly.

Total: 254g or a little less than 2 cups

If you want a different amount of flour, you can multiply the amount or use these percentages:

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sourdough Pancakes

When I was growing up, my dad loved cooking sourdough bread.  Every Sunday he'd make sourdough pancakes with some of the cast-off starter.  They were amazing - kind of tart, but still kid-friendly because I loved them.  My dad had gotten the sourdough recipes from some neighbors growing up in the country.  Here's the original recipe he got typed up from the List family:

I had to change a few things for the gluten-free version, but they are just as light and fluffy and tangy as I remember from the old days back home.

Monday, February 23, 2015

One-Step Sourdough Bread Recipe

I've been baking quite a bit of bread lately, and I thought it was high time to share some new bread recipes.  Almost a year ago I posted a very popular recipe for a traditional two-step, 24 hour sourdough bread.  I love that recipe, and I think that it makes a really delicious, sour bread.  However, sometimes I want my bread to come out less sour, or I just don't have the time to do the two-stage sourdough process.  This is the recipe I use for a bread that only takes one rise - then it's shaped and baked.

1-Step Sourdough Bread Recipe

First mix: 10 minutes
First rise: 6-12 hours
Bake time: 45  minutes

Whisk together until blended in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a fork:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Not-too-Slow Cinnamon Rolls with Ginger Frosting, Gluten Free

These delicious and amazing cinnamon rolls are easily converted into a vegan recipe by subbing out the butter for coconut oil or other butter substitute of your choice.  The recipe is also easily doubled - just divide the dough into two parts before rolling out.  These are best eaten warm out of the oven, or if you want them next day you can spritz them all over with some water and re-heat them in the oven.

Not-too-Slow Cinnamon Rolls

Makes 4 large or up to 9 small cinnamon rolls
Mix and assemble: 20 minutes
Rise: 30-60 minutes
Bake: 25-30 minutes

In a large bowl, or the mixing bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, whisk together:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

I Took a Little Hiatus

You may have wondered where the heck I've been for the last two months.  I certainly wasn't here, posting new recipes!  Well, after 20 years of soaking up the Portland winters in all their rainy, ice-storm glory, I finally decided to take a winter off.  It just so happened that my partner and I had breaks in our jobs at the right time, so we saved up and took off!  Here's some photos of our six weeks spent in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

Mt. Hood, departure day

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My New Favorite Gluten-free Pastas

Have you noticed any new pastas on the shelf at your grocery store lately?

I got so used to buying my previous favorite pasta, Ancient Harvest, that I didn't try anything new for a really long time.  Read my 2009 review of gluten-free pastas to see how times have changed in 5 years. Recently I found a bunch of new GF pastas at the store by brands that I already know and trust like  Glutino and Ronzoni.  New-to-me pastas by Jovial and DeLallo are actually made in Italy! I had to try them.  

These are not just brown rice flour pastas all over again - some of these are totally new flour