What what? February already?

Hey there, Internet.

There’s but a week left in February and yet this is my first post of 2011. And it’s a picture post at that. Shame on me, the writer who never has time to write anything that isn’t for a client.

[Well… not entirely true. Check out my new food blog: Remember the Pudding.]

Behold the Great Fence Replacement Project of 2011:

BEFORE: This was in May 2010. In the background, you can see the old fence, which was precariously lop-sided. Panels would sometimes randomly fall out.

BEFORE: This was in May 2010. In the background, you can see the old fence, which was precariously lop-sided. Panels would sometimes randomly fall out.

AFTER: The fence is no longer falling down. It now features a door to the alley and a trellis, which, with any luck, will fill out with luscious grapes, hops and beans that will help mask the eyesore that is my neighbor's never-ending roof project. Seriously, that tarp has been sitting there for going on 6 months at this point.

AFTER: The fence is no longer falling down. It now features a door to the alley and a trellis, which, with any luck, will fill out with luscious grapes, hops and beans that will help mask the eyesore that is my neighbor's never-ending roof project. Seriously, that tarp has been sitting there for going on 6 months.

A closer look at the door and the trellis.

A closer look at the door and the trellis.


Not fence-related at all, obvs. Today we took the dogs to Thousand Acre Park, an amazing dog area at the Sandy River delta. A thousand acres (duh) of off-leash trails: dogs are everywhere, pathways meander through meadows and puddles abound. A 20-minute walk brings you to the protected shores of the Columbia (excellent stick-retrieving waters). Anyway, this was the car ride home—they were (and still are) completely zonked.

Alright… this Presidents’ Day weekend is coming to a close and it’s time to hit the hay. Until next time, Internet!

Jalapeño cheddar beer quickbread

I’ve been thinking for some time now that I should create an MDIC spinoff blog that focuses exclusively on food. But then I pinch myself and remember — oh wait! Last time I checked I didn’t have time for one blog, let alone two.

So, there you have it, my waning readership, you’ll just have to deal with posts about food interspersed with posts about… whatever it is that I write about when I’m not talking about food. At least I’ll throw in some pictures for good measure and easy scanning.

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Behold a random picture of the last tomato harvest of the 2010 season, inserted for easy scanning.

Got home from work today and figured, to hell with cooking, I’m going to defrost some sauce I made back when the tomato bed wasn’t a goopy tangle of dead vines. I’ll cook up some penne and toss it with parmesan and call it good. Lazy and easy and delicious.

Next thought: but maybe I should bake some bread to go with it?

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More scanning ease! Here we have lamb shanks and cornbread cooked over the fire pit in the backyard. Made this back in August or so.

Luckily, just as I’d had that ridiculous thought, Martin had been perusing through our free copy of This Week, a painful-to-read “newspaper” that the Oregonian delivers to our door on Monday evenings in hopes that we’ll be inspired by the dreadful advice columns to subscribe to the actual paper. (Somehow, we never are.) The one bonus of This Week – other than providing a free source of poop bags — is that it contains selections from FOODday, the Oregonian’s rather respectable food section.

When Martin overheard me musing to myself about bread and the stand mixer and where did I put the yeast?, he suggested that perhaps I instead try THIS recipe, noting that it would be a great use of the two small jalapeños left in the garden:

Jalapeño cheddar beer quickbread!

So I did. And it was quite delicious. And much easier/faster/reasonable than baking bread on whim after a long day of work.

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Really, the only good way to consume a PBR: bake with it.

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Cheesy crusty deliciousness.

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Soft, moist, spicy and cheesy. Most excellent!

Notes:

  • Didn’t have whole wheat flour (the ants ate it) so I substituted a cup + a TBSP of unbleached white.
  • The recipe says you can choose between a quarter cup of oatmeal or a quarter cup of cornmeal, which seems a little odd to me. I went with cornmeal — because if cinnamon’s not involved, I see no reason to bring oatmeal into the picture. I was out of yellow cornmeal, so I used blue cornmeal instead, which I have no idea why I have in my cupboard. But I do.
  • I added shredded cheddar to the top before sticking it in the oven, because I just love the way crusty baked cheddar looks.
  • Left in the pepper seeds for extra spiciness. The result is that some bites are spicier than others, but I kind of like that.
  • I might cut back on the beer just a smidge. Or choose a slightly more distinguished brand than PBR, which kind of reminds me of day-old backwash. Every so often, I can taste the PBR in this bread, and that’s not a good thing.
  • Other than that, it was perfect, and made an excellent accompaniment to the penne and marinara. Would be particularly delicious with my favorite bean chili recipe, which I’ll share one day when the mood strikes.

A tomato story

Last tomato season, I wrote a story.

A few weeks ago, as I was bushwhacking through my tomato jungle idly picking cherry tomatoes in my garden, I remembered it. And it occurred to me to submit it to my favorite food blog, Culinate.

So I did. And they published it!

That’s my exciting news: My first food-related essay to be published somewhere other than this ol’ website of mine.

In other exciting news: I AM GETTING A KITCHENAID STAND MIXER. I can barely contain myself. Unfortunately, there’s been a run on the pear color and I’ll have to wait a few weeks until it comes off of back order. (However: I was kind of on the fence about pear. Maybe I should switch to green apple? Life is full of such difficult decisions.)

Sprouts! I have sprouts!

I have kept a little garden for the past couple of years, but I’ve always a) planted starts b) sewn my seeds directly into the ground once the last frost was over or c) a combination of a + b. This year, I decided to get my herbs, tomatoes and peppers going indoors and avoid starts altogether.

So for the last week, I’ve been obsessively monitoring my seed tray: Is the soil damp enough? Is it warm enough? Is it getting enough light? Perhaps I should move it near the heater at night and to the window by day?

I learned that for $30 you could purchase a foil pad that heats your soil—and heat is necessary especially for the tomatoes and peppers, which need the soil to be at least 70 degrees to germinate. This seemed a bit spendy to me, and instead I opted to insulate my tray with my down jacket and a towel, rotating my seeds from heater to window with the rising of the sun. (Luckily for the seeds, it’s been cold enough in my room to need heat.)

My makeshift plan has had me worried all week—what if they never sprout?! And then, last night, the first cilantro seedling poked up through the soil. By morning, four tomatoes had joined in (three orange tomatoes and one red) along with what might possibly be basil. And they are growing FAST! Since I took the pictures below half an hour ago, the tomatoes have already doubled in size. Behold:

Basil!

Tomatoes! (It’s hard to see it, but there are three)

Here is a more recent photo of the tomatoes (I just took it!):

So exciting!!!

EDIT!

When I got back from ultimate practice, the tomato you see above had become positively huge. Observe:

Close-up: