Monday, January 27, 2014

January Garden Update

A few days of sunny weather and I'm itching to plant something. The garden is more of a mudpit though.

My cover crop. Yeah, I planted WAY too late.
The seed catalogs are here and I've spent hours pouring over gorgeous pictures of cucumbers, tomatoes, and flowers. What should I try this year? What should I bring back?


I'll start with these. No promises not to get more.
While going through my seed collection I found several packages of older greens hiding amongst flower seeds. Not sure how old they are so I mixed them altogether and heavily seeded a protected corner of the garden. It may be too early to throw anything out there but these types of plants prefer cooler weather and heck, it can't hurt.

I probably just brought about a mid-March snowstorm.

While the garden is mostly mud the flower beds are starting to show signs of life. Its always interesting to see what comes up where since the moles like to move my bulbs around.

But for the most part they are still a sea of textures. And weeds, but lets ignore them. (Technically those are edible dandelions so they are early greens, not weeds. Positive thinking!)

And even though its cold and (usually gloomy) I still have a bit of flutter keeping me company.

A pair of Anna's Hummingbirds are still hanging around. Its the first year I've had hummingbirds overwinter and they really brighten the day with their antics.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pressure Cooker- Risotto with Mushrooms and Bacon

For Christmas Santa brought me a nifty new kitchen toy: an electric pressure cooker. I have to admit I was rather surprised. A pressure cooker? Aren't those just for canning meat and low acid-type foods? Didn't Julia Child hate the things? Don't they blow up if you do something wrong?

With memories of Grandma shooing me out of kitchen whenever I got near her pressure pot lest I blow the place sky-high I let the beast sit on the counter while I decided what to do with it.

After kicking around several ideas I settled on risotto. I've had great success with Julia Child's French-style risotto recipe and it looked easy to adapt to the pressure cooker. Now, before you call the Paleo Police I do eat rice on occasion, along with full-fat dairy such as hard cheeses and heavy cream. I've found that these items don't bother me and, with nursing an infant, I need the extra carbs. There are only so many yams I can get down before I need something new.

While a tablespoon of butter melted in a fry pan I diced an onion. (Ghee would work instead of butter, or coconut oil.) Once the butter started to foam I added the onions and lowered the heat to medium-low.

I gently cooked the onions, occasionally stirring, until they were translucent and starting to caramelize. I added another couple tablespoons of butter, waited till it was melted, then mixed in the rice.

I slowly sauteed the rice to cook off any rice flour, this keeps the rice from being sticky. The rice is done when it turns a milky color-you can see on the spoon a raw grain (translucent) and a cooked grain (solid white). Once the majority of the rice was milky I dumped it all into the pressure cooker pot, added chicken broth and an herb bouquet, shut the machine up and hit the Rice/Risotto Button.

So easy I felt like I was cheating.

While the pressure cooker made weird hissing noises I wiped out the pan, diced the bacon, and started it frying on medium heat. I added a splash of water to the pan to help render as much of the bacon-y goodness out. When the bacon was near done I added the sliced mushrooms and stirred till everything was coated with bacon grease.

Remember not to crowd the mushrooms!

When the mushrooms had released their juices and were a beautiful brown I set the pan aside to wait on the rice. Soon the machine was beeping-that was fast!

After the pressure was released I removed the pot and stirred in the bacon and mushrooms and adjusted the seasonings with a few grinds of pepper and sea salt.

Verdict? Pretty tasty!

You can find the recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol. I or here (though Julia adds much more detail). Instead of putting the mixture in the oven put it in your pressure cooker and bring to the pressure up to High or 15 psi.

Once pressure is reached lower the heat to the lowest possible temp that will maintain the high pressure (this is where having the automatic Rice/Risotto feature is nice.) Allow to cook for 6 minutes, then use the Quick Release Method to release the pressure. All the broth should be absorbed, if some remains that's ok.

Fold in your extras (you can use anything-leftover veggies, meats, whatever you want!), replace the lid, and set aside for a few minutes. The rice will continue to absorb the liquid for a few minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Still Seeing Stars

Last week the whole family went up to Portland to attend an event hosted by Michelle of Nom Nom Paleo, Bill and Hayley of Primal Palate, and Diane of Balanced Bites.

It was a blast!! There were so many people there, over 400! Can you believe it? I couldn't and I was there.

Before the meet and greet the team answered questions about leaky gut, snacks, dealing with unwanted food gifts, and pressure from family/friends to eat treats. Michelle shared Melissa of The Clothes That Make The Girl's tip for unwanted foods: "Not right now." This was great advice, especially since my folks visited the day after the event. I love my family but they are hard-core carb addicts. "Not right now" was a perfect solution-no one's feelings were hurt and I managed to eat (mostly) clean.

It was great to meet the writers that I've been stalking, mean following, the past few years. Even though the event went much later than expected they stayed upbeat and cheerful. As did the kiddos, though Munchkin was definitely on her last legs toward the end. Thank you all for a great evening!

Since we were in Portland we stopped by the fancy piggy place: Tails and Trotters. The butchery is focused solely on pigs finished on hazelnuts, much like the famed Jamon Iberico of Spain (only they get acorns). I had tried some of their products at my local butcher but, since we were near the flagship store, I had to stop.

So many yummy things! We snagged a basketful of goodies and then decided to order sandwiches. Their prosciutto is amazing!

The pork belly is currently sitting in the fridge, awaiting Nom Nom Paleo's Sui Yoke treatment.

All in all it was a long week with tons of visiting. I'm glad our social calender is finally settling back into a routine, though I'm sad that my family had to go home. They live much too far away and I don't get to see them nearly enough.

Ah well, pork belly to the rescue!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Money Meet Mouth

All my life I have been growing things, from helping my mom plants flowers as a toddler to putting in a cover crop last fall. Most of my "training" has been trail and error, searching the Internet for solutions, and snagging every gardening book in the library. Over the years I've slowly increased my growing abilities. I'm not quite up to the "green arm" level that my mom has (all she has to do is look at a plant and it grows an inch) but I've come along way from killing spider plants.

Now to take it to the next step and get all professional.

In December I was accepted into the Oregon State University's Master Gardener Program and today is the first day of class. I am so excited!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Check out the snazzy new look!

We’ve moved things around, replaced some stuff, added other stuff, and in general messed with everything. I hope you like it! If you stumble on something that doesn’t work please let us know (info at so we can get it fixed right away.

If you are new to blog, howdy! My name is Corie. I live in the Pacific Northwest and I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to grow the perfect tomato. My family (Hubby, Munchkin and the newbie, Tadpole) and I have slowly been transforming our little piece of suburbia into a mini-farm with gardens, chickens, and a tiny fruit orchard. My goal is to, eventually, grow most of what we eat.

Of course, once you grow it you have to eat it, which is why I write a lot about what I’m eating, the recipes that I’ve found, ways to preserve food, and what I’m doing with the tons of zucchini I manage to grow every summer. I’m slowly becoming one of those nerdy foodie people, but no one seems to mind (maybe because my cooking has improved because of it).

If you want to find out more about me check out the About Page, otherwise take a gander at the Recipes Page, there are tons of tasty dishes waiting to be made; or check out the Links Page for the bloggers and websites I follow. Join me on Facebook, follow my awful food photography on Instagram, or check out the list of crazy must-do ideas on Pinterest . It’s great to have you here!

Thoughts for the New Year-Building Healthy Habits

We are a week into the new year and most everyone I know is starting to flag on their new year's resolutions. Their plans to lose weight this year are starting to crumble to the siren song of (insert favorite unhealthy treat here). I'm hearing a lot of grumbling, whining, and sighing going on. Not that I'm a special snowflake but this year I did something different.

I made goals instead of resolutions.

Every year I would sit down on December 29th and write out what I was going to do. At the top of the list was losing weight, or something similar (look good in a bikini, fit into that little black dress, you get the idea.) And every year around this time I started getting tired. Tired of working out, of eating rabbit food, of not seeing anything happen. Patience isn't exactly my strong suit and when a week went by without anything but deprivation I'd start to...bend the rules a little. ONE square of chocolate. I can skip working out today because the kiddo kept me up all night and I really need the sleep. You get the idea. This year I decided to set specific goals rather than usual vague resolutions.

Three (almost four!) years ago when I discovered the primal/paleo lifestyle I found a way that we could eat healthy without starving or going without treats. Unfortunately over the years I never completely addressed my sugar addictions or emotional eating which has led to my talking the talk but not walking the walk-at least not 100% of the time. I touched briefly on it here but that was about it. I love eating clean, normal, unprocessed foods. I love taking a fresh item, in its natural state, and turning it into something delicious the family loves. My family prefers it, even the picky preschooler.

So what is stopping me from keeping the eats clean 24/7? Exhaustion, boredom, flat out laziness, busy with something else and time gets away-ness, unhealthy habits? All the above has caused me to grab take out swearing that it will just be for this one meal. Except there are often leftovers and hey, today's wrecked so throw in this other thing or that thing or I-feel-sad-and-a-cookie-will-fix-it-ness kicks in. And suddenly several days/weeks has gone by and its evolved from just one meal to every meal and my cupboards have crap in them. Again. And we're back to square one (I blame the brain). So, my first goal for the year:

Goal #1-Eat clean for 90 days.

Two years ago I completed a Whole30 and loved it. The clearly laid out end date gave me something to shoot for, anyone can survive without chocolate for 30 days. Thirty days was long enough to get me started but after that month was over I slowly slipped back into my old ways. *sigh* Research shows it takes a little over 2 months to form a new habit which is why I set the time period for 90 days.

To help with this goal Hubby and I have started planning our meals out a week. This way the afternoon question of "what's for dinner?" is already answered and in the fridge, defrosted and ready to go. So far it has already helped. I've also started prepping greens and salads as soon as I came home from the grocery store. So much easier to throw together a huge salad when everything is ready and just has to be tossed together. Hey, this may even save on the grocery bill!

I fully believe getting healthy is 80% diet, but what about the other 20%? 

I hate cardio. Its mindless and boring. Even when I had the fancy gym membership that had treadmills with fancy TVs I hated it. No show, no matter how interesting, could keep me jogging along the hamster wheel. Swimming worked for about two visits-mindless laps were no different than the treadmill but without the TV. Hubby has constantly pointed out my extreme competitiveness so I've decided to use it to my advantage. He loves to run (ugh) but there is a very fun 5k race coming up in April called Color Me Rad. Welcoming in spring by throwing color bombs at people? Hey, works for me.

But I'm not exactly in racing condition. What can I say, pregnancy does a number on the bod and I didn't exactly leap back into working out once Tadpole was born (which was only 3 months ago, give me a break.) I've heard great things about the Couch to 5K program so I'm giving that a try.

Now, the last time I attempted a 5k I hardly trained (stupid), what little training I did do was barefoot or in barefoot style shoes (smart), which I forgot to bring on race day so I had to wear the Nike sneakers I already had on my feet (stupid x 100). My feet cramped about 50 yards in but I hobbled along to the finish line, cursing my feet, my brilliant ideas, Hubby (who was walking beside me laughing to himself), the road, everything. I "completed" the race dead last. My time? An hour. And yes I say "completed" because that wasn't a race, that was an exercise in self-hate and stubbornness. So, my second goal for the year:

Goal #2-Complete a 5K in >30 minutes by the end of the year

Cardio isn't everything and I love lifting weights. In high school I out-benched pressed the rest of the girls in my class by nearly 20 pounds (at least till I got really sick and missed almost a month of school). Most of the girls were terrified of getting bulky but I loved seeing those biceps start to form. Honestly, women do NOT need to worry about getting bulky and should be lifting. And HEAVY weights, not those puny things. Yes, I own a 3 pound weight set (Munchkin loves it) but my dumbell sets also go up to 95 pounds (I kinda collect weights) and I'm now hooked on kettlebells. I picked up a new kettlebell last week, plus a kettlebell DVD (no excuses for missing the gym) so my third goal of the year is:

Goal #3-Lift 3 x a week for 90 days

Notice something with these goals? They are all S.M.A.R.T goals (hey, I used to work in Corporate America). They are

Specific: No vagueness, I clearly state what I want out of the goal and how I'm going to accomplish it.
Measurable: At the end I can clearly tell if I accomplished the goal or not.
Attainable: They are things I can do in the time-frame I'm setting, with the resources I have.
Reasonable/Relevant: They are goals that will benefit me and are do-able.
Timed: There is a clear end date when the goal will be accomplished or evaluated.

Notice there are no gardening goals? I figured if it would be too tempting to the weather gods if I put down something specific for the garden. After the -9 temps we had a few weeks ago (yes NEGATIVE NINE!) I'd rather not draw Their attention back to my little patch of dirt, at least for a while. I do have plans to branch out and plant a variety of new veggies this year, including romanesco, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and new-to-me salad greens (such as mache, watercress, and miner's lettuce).

The seed catalogs are starting to arrive. I should probably set a goal NOT to get carried away.

Nah. I'll never reach it, look at all the tomatoes!

Pineapple Tomato from Territorial Seed Company

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year!

Fireworks over Darling Harbour © Nigel Howe

Happy New Year everyone! 

Big changes are coming to the site, stay tuned!