The return of salad season: white beans and tuna over greens.

Hello salad season, so glad you are back with us. My garden is literally exploding with lettuce and kale at the moment, so I’m trying my best to find creative ways to incorporate more greens into every meal. I love … Continue reading

Super Easy Rhubarb Curd: The only thing you need to eat this spring.

Here’s what I’m smitten with these days: Rhubarb.

I know this tangy tart vegetable (I actually had to stop and think about what rhubarb is for a moment… Is it a vegetable? Lets maybe just call it a plant) This tangy, tart plant can be an acquired taste, and thankfully one that my adult taste buds have grown right into (however, at this point, I think mustard is a lost cause… if I haven’t liked it for almost 30 years, I’m going to guess I’m not growing into that one… I am still undecided about radishes…. I WANT to like them… and mostly I do when other people prepare them. And then I get so excited every spring, and a plant a billion of them because they grow really fast and I can’t wait to have something growing, and then each and every year I harvest the perfect looking radish and am filled with more emotion than one should really have towards any vegetable, and I take a giant bite, chew it around for a bit, and then head over to the sink to spit it out…. EVERY YEAR I DO THIS! Maybe eventually I will learn that I should just eat other people’s radishes and life will be good. And yes, I’m totally aware of how that sounds as I’m reading this aloud, but I’m choosing just to leave it… I mean, I’m not the kind of girl who just goes around eating other people’s radishes…)

 

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Back to the rhubarb… thank you taste buds for getting this one figured out. And lets be honest… even if you are on the fence about rhubarb, aren’t you crushing on it a little bit this time of year? The contrast of the pale green and garnet hues alone have me swooning! For the last few weeks I’ve been observing my two rhubarb plants from a bit of a distance. Not because I am scared of them, though their very large poisonous leaves are always a little daunting, but mostly because I couldn’t think of anything overly creative to do with it. Last year I made rhubarb rosemary gin and tonics, (Amaze balls!) and I was already mentally planning out my rhubarb syrup, but other than that I was a little stumped. There it sat, out in the yard, challenging me from afar, taunting me even, to come up with some sort of amazing and worthwhile dish… I toyed with the idea of going savory (which I still may… I mean I’ve got a lot of rhubarb) But a few days ago I was searching on Pinterest for some bachelorette party ideas, and suddenly saw mention of Rhubarb Curd. Lights, bells, whistles, fireworks, bam, bang, hello! How had I not thought of this earlier? Lemon curd is only one of my most favorite things ever, and both lemon and rhubarb share that wonderful tanginess. I spent the rest of that day wistfully dreaming of rhubarb curd and magical it would be, and at the end of the work day I promptly came home and made up a recipe. It’s every bit as good as I hoped it would be. I’ve mostly been eating it with yogurt and strawberries, but it is also amazing on toast, mixed in with oatmeal, or just by the spoonful.

 


 

Rhubarb Curd- Author adapted from Dana Velden recipe.

Make about 2 Cups

Ingredients

  • 5 medium stalks of rhubarb
  • ¼ C Water
  • ¾ C sugar
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 stick of butter, cubed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ tsp salt

Method

  • Wash and trim the rhubarb stalks, and cut into ¾ inch pieces. Place in sauce pan with ¼ C of sugar, and ¼ C water, cover and turn on medium/ high heat. Cook for 10 minutes or until rhubarb is soft and begins to fall apart.
  • Remove rhubarb mixture from heat, and pour contents into a blender or food processor (or use an emulsion blender). And puree until smooth. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a food processor combine ½ C sugar and the lemon zest. Pulse a few times to combine. Add in the egg yolks, butter, salt, and lemon juice. Pulse a few times until combined. Add in the rhubarb puree, and mix. about 15-20 seconds. (The mixture may look a little curdled, don’t worry!)
  • Transfer mixture into a sauce pan, and cook on a low heat, stirring almost constantly using a heat resistant spatula. It is quite easy to burn/ curdle the curd, so be attentive. Cook until the mixture noticeably begins to thicken (about 12-15 minutes) or until it reaches about 170 degrees.
  •  Pour the curd into a storage jar, and let it cool to room temperature before closing and storing in the refrigerator. Rhubarb curd should last for about a week in the refrigerator, though chances are it won’t last that long!

 

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* a note about the color. The rhubarb I have growing in my yard is mostly green… therefore my rhubarb curd looks like muddy lemon curd. However, I’m quite certain that if you are purchasing the glorious garnet colored rhubarb, your rhubarb curd will be a really dreamy light pink color.

Gardening instincts, SAD, and finding my motivation.

These last few days have been beautiful in Oregon. I typically don’t miss the Montana weather (its currently blizzarding and 2 degrees in my home town. No joke. There is a live webcam…) But these last two days the sun has been shining, the sky is blue, and I keep having a twinge of nostalgia for the clear crisp winter days… the blizzards not so much. I crave snow about once a year… one weekend is the perfect amount. Preferably around Christmas, anything over that just seems excessive.

 So yeah, I don’t miss the snow, but I would definitely take a few more crisp sunny days. Don’t get me wrong. I adore the dreariness of Oregon winters. I crave it a little bit, actually. The cozy foggy mornings that just beg you to snuggle in with a good book and a cup of tea. The bright green grass contrasting the dark charcoal sky. The drizzling rain… It soothes my soul, which is probably why I moved to Oregon in the first place. But every now and again, a little bit of Seasonal Affective Disorder sneaks its way in, and I’m left feeling a little blasé this time of year.  Thankfully, I have a happy lamp, which typically does the trick, even though it is a little ridiculous.

When my parents first made the move to Oregon the weather transition was a little rough on them. My mom’s doctor suggested a light supplement, and as it turns out they were selling them at Costco. Score. After about two weeks though, my dad had deemed the Happy Lamp the “unhappy lamp” because its actually a bit abrasive. After a bit of complaining, the light made its way over to my place, and mostly I used it for my house plants, but every so often I pull it out for personal use. I usually just place it in the bathroom, getting my extra dose of light as I get ready for the day, which is a win-win, as it turns out my bathroom doesn’t have the best lighting.  

 Anyway, the last few weeks I’ve been feeling rather unmotivated. I’m not depressed per say, I’m exercising, eating well, getting myself out there, and even meditating… but all that aside, I just haven’t been terribly motivated to work on the things that make me, me. I haven’t been blogging, I haven’t really been working on anything creative, my house is a bit of a disaster, I haven’t been cooking… I’ve kind of just been coasting aimlessly, not feeling passionate about anything.  And overall, I think that is allowed, and I haven’t even been overly concerned about it… until Today I realized how elated I was that the sun was shining. Hello productiveness! Hello  goals. Hello achievements (mental note: add vitamin D to my vitamin regimen stat. This sun can’t last forever) 

Thankfully, this motivation came on my day off (isn’t it the worst when you get super motivated, and you realize that if you actually stop to clean the bathroom you will be 20 minutes late to work? This happens to me often).  So I took the motivation, I took the sense of purpose, I took the energy from the sun, and put on some garden gloves. I’ve pretty much been avoiding putting my garden to bed for the winter like the plague.  I do this every year, and then make it so much harder for myself each spring… Mostly I got a little too excited about my garden this year, and then didn’t have a ton of time to do anything with it, so the idea of cleaning it out was a little daunting. I started the project a few weeks ago, but still had some beds that needed clearing.  Today was the perfect day…. And then I kept going. I clean out the tomato beds, I pruned the raspberries, I did a little weeding, trimmed back the mint, and even swept my patio. I would have gone so far as to pick up dog poop, only my super duper pooper scooper broke into a million pieces after 1 scoop. Tragedy. I’ll deal with that later.

 BUT one thing I did observe in this midst of this yard project was how happy it made me. Working in my garden, and growing my own food brings me epic amounts of joy, and even though this is the not fun part of gardening, I still found myself getting excited by the pruning. Mostly I have no idea what I’m doing… last year was a huge pruning experiment, and it seemed to mostly work, and so I decided to forge ahead with false confidence… only once I got going I realized that it was all pretty instinctual. I imagine this is sort of how first time parents feel. “I have no idea what I’m doing, but this feels like the right thing.” Granted, I am not a parent, and don’t have plans to become a parent, but it seems like its kind of the same thing.  There I was, in the raspberry patch, and I could just look at the branches and say “this one won’t produce next year, it’s a goner!” and I really did have every confidence that I was right (talk to me next June, and lets see if I have any raspberries). Once I cut about five branches, I started to notice that each of the branches I was eliminating was tied to the trellis with a green twist tie. I haven’t had time to confer with my father (who tamed the raspberries this spring) but it almost felt like a road map. “These are the ones that are producing now, and won’t do anything next year”  at least that is what I kept telling myself. It might just be a grand coincidence that every branch that was tied up was one I was getting rid of…. I’ll have to confer with Mike.

Who knows how long it will last, and what the rest of the winter will bring, but two days of sunshine, and I’m feeling more like myself. I’m feeling like I’m ready to tackle more projects, and ready to get more back into the things that make me feel like me.  We will see how long it lasts… Hopefully a while!

 

Reciting poetry to my raspberries & wondering who will inevitably rescue me.

I know, will this crazy lady ever be done writing blog posts about her raspberries? The answer is yes. Probably. In a while when there are more different fun things to harvest like blueberries and figs… I just cannot get over the fact that I have a garden that is growing real things that can feed me and my friends and co-workers. There are So. Many. Raspberries. ( and peas, but that is an entirely different post)

Everyday when I’m out picking raspberries two thing repeatedly pop into my head without fail. The first is the poem by William Carlos Williams “The Red Wheelbarrow” ( I of course tried to be “fancy” or just normal and link this, but once again blogging from my phone =epic fail. http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15537

Anyway, everyday I recite this poem to the raspberries, only I replace the word wheelbarrow with raspberries, and the word chickens with bulldog. Yeah, I’m the girl who recites poetry to her plants… Daily. I can’t help it. Go find some raspberries & try not to say that poem to them… So much depends upon the red raspberries… I’m compelled.

The second thing that pops into my head while pretty much leaning my entire body weight across the raspberry patch to reach that one perfect berry is ” dear god, if I were to fall into this raspberry patch, I wonder how long it would take for someone to find/ rescue me! I’m due at work in 45 minutes, so hopefully someone would start worrying, and my dad should be here in about 3 hours to let the dog outside… So he could fish me out of here”. Literally every day I think about that, because when you live alone you need to start coming up with a backup plan in case you fall into a bramble of raspberries…. At least I wouldn’t go hungry…

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Life lessons from my garden

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Blogging from my phone is one of my least favorite things, but after spending a few moments out wandering through the garden I was inspired to write… Phone post it is.

I moved into this house almost exactly a year ago, and this time last year I was painting trim & frantically trying to get some seeds in the ground before it was too late to grow anything good for the season. One thing I didn’t have to worry about though was the bed of raspberries hanging out in the back corner of the yard. Hello painting snacks! Friends would come over to see the place, and I would quickly file them into the back yard to ooohhhh and ahhhh over the garden potential, and we’d pick handfuls of raspberries and meander through the yard.

Flash forward to this year, all the painting is done, the garden is 100% planted, things are settled ( just don’t look in the garage) and it is once more raspberry season. I’m amazed, I picked a bunch of fruit this morning, and I was just out there and did the second harvest of the day. A few extra hours of sun and voila, more ripe, red, goodness.

Not to get all cheeseball on you, BUT… Being out in the raspberry bed I’m constantly reminded that sometimes all you need is a little change in perspective to see what you are missing right in front of you. ( I haven’t exactly applied this to my real life yet…) I go out, and pick everything I can see, an then round a corner or bend over and suddenly it’s like a whole new world of berries pops up. Really they were there the whole time, just waiting… I just didn’t see them until I changed my vantage point.

A lot of things have changed in my life over this past year. Roommates have moved in and out, relationships have come and gone, jobs have ended, new ones have started… And like the raspberries I feel like just a little change in my point of view has really helped bring things into focus, things that were there all along, I just didn’t have the right vantage point.

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Dear world, I’m distracted by summer time

Hey people,
I know I haven’t been posting very frequently. I write blog posts in my head, but then finding the time to sit down and type them out is a completely different matter.

I could make excuses about how I still have yet to buy a computer, and blogging from a smart phone is tedious etc. but the real truth of the matter is this: it’s summer, I’m working 60 hours a week, and these days my free moments are spent frolicking outside, training for a half marathon, teaching yoga, playing with my slightly neglected bulldog, and working in the yard an garden. Throw in laundry, cleaning , and pretending to have a social life ( ok, and watching copious amounts of Arrested Development) and there isn’t a ton of free time to type out my thoughts….

Rather than apologizing, or feeling guilty, I’m choosing to just roll with it. I have some great things to blog about in the upcoming weeks, bulldog birthday parties, half marathon training, engagement parties, garden harvest, and awkward work situations ( yesterday I actually said out loud ” well, we need more sausage baskets!” I also accidentally covered my cousin in lasagna… These are all good stories.)

All I can say, is that I hope you are all enjoying the summer as well, and each of you are equally as busy basking in the sunshine & activities that come with this season.

In the meantime I will appease you with photos from the garden, and a very dapper bulldog.

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Rhubarb Rosemary Gin and Tonics

 

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One of the most fun things about my house, is discovering the things that are coming up in the garden. This is my first spring here, so there are a number of surprises. One of my favorite things thus far, has been the two huge rhubarb plants in the back yard. I have no idea how old they are, and if they have a story (I’m sure they do, but it isn’t mine) and I’ve spent the last few weeks, harvesting, and prepping the rhubarb for some delicious thing. It isn’t the “best” rhubarb in the world, the stalks are a little gangly and woody, and they are mostly green-ish, but I still managed to get quite a harvest, and have put quite a bit in the freezer for future jams, bread, and pies.

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Yesterday I was feeling like I needed a domestic project though, and so I wandered out to the garden to see if there was anything interesting to harvest. I ended up picking a handful of rhubarb, and immediately came inside to start on a simple syrup. I wanted to create something fresh, and herbal, and decided that rosemary would pair wonderfully with the tartness of the rhubarb. I tend to lean away from using rosemary in conventional ways, because the flavor can be really overpowering, and generally speaking I think it gets overused… but give me a rosemary pairing that is a little outside of the box, and I’m all over it (rosemary thyme sugar cookies are my favorite things on the planet). Rhubarb rosemary gin and tonic anyone?

My  favorite part (or one of my favorite parts)  of my new job is playing bar tender, and coming up with new and unusual cocktails that have a fresh market flair to them. The lemon-basil vodka tonics have been a smashing success, and have a permanent home on the menu, and the Cucumber rosemary gin and tonics have had great reviews as well… Now if only the summer weather would stick around. Hello Oregon, we are ready for the refreshing cocktails!

As I simmered the rhubarb with sugar, water, rosemary and lemon I started to scheme all the tasty things I could do with the concoction. My immediate thought was of course the gin and tonic (because it sounds delicious, right?) but there was also a bottle of Prosecco in my fridge staring me down, and what better to pair with a bit of bubbles than a wonderfully pink and herbaceous syrup? (I’m actually drinking this right now, hello-wine Wednesday! its fabulous. I don’t usually drink in the middle of the day, but I had to take some photos for this post, and when in Rome/ when it is your weekend you drink the rhubarb rosemary bubbles for lunch).

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For those of you who have not cooked with rhubarb, it disintegrates into a stringy mush of swamp water fairly quickly. Don’t let this deter you… the end product is totally worth it. Once the syrup was fully infused with the rhubarb and rosemary flavor, I strained off solids, and the result was a beautiful pale pink liquid. No more swamp water, hello cocktail possibilities. (plus the rhubarb mush is totally delicious, and I would highly recommend eating it by the spoonful, spreading it on toast, or putting it in a crepe.)

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I’m totally obsessed with the blush color of the syrup, something about it just makes me feel very lady like… perfect for brunches, bridal showers, or just a Wednesday afternoon. The party-thrower/ hostess in me wanted to add a little more flair to the cocktails, so I froze some rosemary in my ice cubes. It is so simple, and presents amazingly, and can be done with any herb or edible flower. I love adding mint or lavender to ice cubes for lemonade, and borage blossoms and rose petals make a beautiful addition to any punch.

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Rhubarb Rosemary Simple Syrup:
Equal parts sugar and water (I used 2 cups of each)
roughly two cups of diced rhubarb
juice from 1/2 a lemon
4-5 small sprigs of rosemary.

Combine water, sugar, rosemary, rhubarb and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Slowly bring to a boil, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Strain out solids and save for some delicious snack.

I’d love to see what other delicious ideas people have for this syrup, and highly encourage you to share them here!

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Rhubarb Rosemary Gin and tonic:

2 oz gin (I used Ransom gin, my absolute favorite)
1 oz rhubarb rosemary simple syrup
tonic water to taste
garnish with lime wedge & sprig of rosemary.

Rhubarb Rosemary Prosecco Sparkler
1-2 oz of rhubarb rosemary simple syrup (or to taste)
top off with prosecco & a rosemary garnish.

 

Little nugget of a post

Ok, bare with me readers, I’m writing this teeny tiny post from my i-phone. Just a quick update, I still don’t have a new computer ( I bought a Dyson vacuum instead… Hello grown up. But I must say it’s pretty much the best purchase I’ve ever made!) it has also been 80 degrees, and pretty much most of my spare time is being spent in the garden. Aka all my blog hours are spent outside or vacuuming… But it’s an ok thing. I promise to keep blogging, I write full blown blog posts in my head… If only they could make their way to cyber space without me actually having to type them. But be on the lookout for some gardening posts, kitchen tours, half marathon training, dinner party-ing, wonderful spring/ summer blog posts. Hang in there & I promise to write more soon! In the meantime here are some pictures… ( I hope it works posting it from this ap!)

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A few things I’m loving about the Spring.

As expected, life is feeling a little nutty since I’ve been back at work, and my days off have been spent trying to connect with friends, and take care of my personal life (you know the usual, laundry, cleaning the kitchen, going grocery shopping, menu planning, exercising… and a little bit of vegging)  But I did want to write a quick post about a few things I’m loving about the Spring.

Firstly, I love Spring in Oregon, because it is the season in which there is all of this hopeful change. The days are getting a little longer, and plants and flowers are budding all over the place, and we are starting to get a little break from the dreary Oregon winter. It just feels like the perfect time to be starting something new, and I feel like I’m bringing that energy with me to my new work environment.

I love that I can walk into the grocery stores right now and get bouquets of ranunculus, which are my all time favorite flower. I think they are so delicate and whimsical, and they come in an amazing array of colors. Right now I’m swooning over these peachy pink ones that are currently living in my bathroom, but last week I was tempted to buy about 7 bouquets of them! They have this deep purple ones that were super sexy, and this burgundy wine color that was amazing. I also picked up some yellow ones for a little pop of color in the kitchen… I’m so glad that I get joy out of the small things in life.

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Spring also means that color is slowly making its way back into people’s wardrobes (lets face it, it never left mine, even at times when it probably should have…. Don’t have anything that matches? Just add another color and walk out the door… seriously, most days I look like a very colorful yoga clown, but whatever.) I also feel like I can wear super bright nail polish and be seasonally appropriate… currently I’m rocking this Siren colored polish… but I can’t wait to get out the mint greens!

Please ignore the terrible manicure, and my gross dry dragon hands... my body is adjusting to life in a restaurant

Please ignore the terrible manicure, and my gross dry dragon hands… my body is adjusting to life in a restaurant

Also last week at Salt & Straw they had Lucky Charms ice cream to celebrate St. Patrick’s day…. Sweet Jesus, that stuff was good. Good enough to make it on my list of things that I’m slightly obsessed with/ loving this spring. I know it was a limited time flavor, and it is probably gone… (which is really too bad for all of you reading this now… cause it was pretty mind blowing).  But eating a scoop of it last Tuesday was quite possibly the highlight of my week.

 

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Magically Delicious

My yard is exploding with flowering things right now… I’m kinda on a time crunch, and it’s a little dreary out, so I don’t have any pictures to post, but the bleeding heart is emerging from the ground, hundreds of teeny tiny daffodils are starting to pop out, the fruit trees are budding, and I can’t wait to get outside and start planting my garden! Stay tuned for pictures and updates.

 

Signs of Spring: A few photo nuggets from around the yard

I love springtime in Oregon. Love. Love. Love it. I grew up in Montana, and even though I’ve lived here for ten years, I still tend to think of February as a snowy cold month full of blah. I’m still pleasantly surprised every year when we get a week or so of epically beautiful days full of sunshine and the promise of spring. Since  I moved into my house last July, I missed springtime in the yard, so the past few weeks have been ones of excitement and discovery and trial and error. My dad and I have been trimming all the fruit trees, and various bushes throughout the yard… we have no idea what we are doing, but we are doing it with great confidence.

Some aspects of the yard are not a surprise. Even though I missed the blooms last year, I knew there were lilacs out front, and peonies in the back, and a lovely winter Daphne off the back porch. I saw the Rhubarb plants in a state of disarray. I knew that spring would bring about some amazing things, but one thing I wasn’t expecting was the plethora of bulbs scattered pretty much through every corner of the property. It’s been a really fun surprise. There are literally hundreds of crocus, hyacinth daffodils, and tulips emerging right now, and each day I pop outside with baited breath hoping that something has started blooming. I still have a ways to go most of the plants… but the ones that are up right now are absolutely lovely, and I’m quite excited to see what other spring time surprises are in store for me here.

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Tulips emerging around the terracotta bulldog

Hydrangea starting to bud out

Hydrangea starting to bud out

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The most amazing crocus I've ever seen

The most stunning crocus I’ve ever seen

Daffodils?

Daffodils?

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Tree Peonies budding out

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Mystery Bush

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Rhubarb

More Mystery Bulbs

More Mystery Bulbs

Mini-Iris

Mini-Iris

Peonies peaking up

Peonies peaking up

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Crocus

Daphne

Daphne