December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

Christmas Eve dinner tonight is Black Bean Tamales followed by Moroccan Beef Stew with Couscous and for dessert, Trifle (requested by our son but in the form of a Tiramisu). I wish I could say I made the Tamales but, like the rum infused fruit cake I was so ambitious to make, it got away from me this year (much like last year with Chestnut Chocolate Marquise). Christmas Day dessert is a Bûche de Noel by Baquette et Chocolat because all my focus will be in trying to create Gordon Ramsey’s Beef Wellington.

Those who know me know I like tinkering with greenery all seasons of the year so obviously I became fixated. The trimmings from the Christmas trees were made into floral arrangements for later use to make into garlands but then I never got around to making the garlands because I was trying to find buttercream colored tapered candles (which I couldn’t find anyway) and then got sidetracked with the ivy jasmine where I decided to put some on the light shade and that if I had time would have covered my dining room with it. Hope your Christmas is a good one.

November 8, 2016

Sweet Bean Paste

I watched the movie Sweet Bean by Naomi Kawase. A tender story that showcases Dorayaki (a Japanese confectionery) and the love that goes into making Anko, the sweet bean paste. Of course I had to try it. After scouring the internet, I came across this recipe with authors Noriko and Yuko. If you look at other recipes, you will notice that this recipe uses 1/2 cup (sometimes one cup) sugar more per cup of beans. Their reason for the extra sugar is that “it makes the paste thicker, shinier and tastes closer to the ones from traditional Japanese sweet shops.” Resist the urge to rinse the beans after you drain them in the last step otherwise the paste will turn an unappetizing faded purple and not the deep red-brown. If you prefer a smooth texture, mix using a stick blender or blender. Makes a delicious spread in place of Nutella or jam.







October 27, 2016

Chocolate Sourdough Bread

I wrote this post earlier this year, put it in the “drafts” folder and then forgot about it. I discovered it today while writing up another and so had to post it before I forgot again. These are images taken from when I first tried making chocolate sourdough bread. I’ve made it several times since then—fewer times over summer but now that the weather is turning cooler, this will be a regular. The recipe comes from The Clever Carrot and while I only used half the amount of starter and didn’t have chocolate chips, my bread turned out similarly. If anything I was very pleased with the result. I was amazed at how quickly the bread rose compared to my usual batch of sourdough bread which I think is the result of using sugar. Both crumb and crust are soft too and from reading about bread making in the past, it’s from using sugar so if you prefer a much softer crust and crumb, add sugar. The aroma of this bread while baking and afterwards is just delicious.


Overnight rise. Using a see-through container for this process allows you to view the texture of your dough; and one with measurements will allow you to measure its growth. The texture in your dough is also a good indicator of what your finished product will look like so watching the process through a transparent container makes for a very helpful tool.


Proofing. Before (left), and one hour later (right).


Note. Most sourdough bread recipes call for a dutch oven or cast iron pot, and some recipes absolutely advise that you can’t bake a bread without them. This isn’t true. A pizza stone or barbecue stone will do just as well and is something most people have access to without the added expense of purchasing an item they may not need. To create the steam required, place a dish at the bottom of the oven (the stone should be placed in the oven at this time too) while the oven is preheating. Then, when the oven is ready and the bread dough is on the stone (if there is room you can put more than one dough on the same stone), pour one cup of ice into the dish and close the oven door directly.

July 20, 2016

Thinking outside the clay pot


If it weren’t for the introductory pages and its esoteric jargon I might had tossed it forever. Instead, I did myself a favor and skipped it for chapter one. I’m reading The Double Helix by James D. Watson. Needless to say for someone that is mathematically challenged and science illiterate, I found it encouraging that a scientist had an aversion toward maths. He also confesses how he managed to avoid taking chemistry classes; instead compensated by outside reading and seeking out leading experts in the field. Furthermore he shares how presentations by peers went over his head; and at the other end of the spectrum how he thought some articles and their corresponding research misguided. What I got from this book is how the author displayed resourcefulness and critical thinking and how both these characteristics involve being open-minded and honest with yourself to the point of admitting your inabilities, and aware when others don’t. I think it also takes a community of minds to find solutions and that ideas are never formed in a vacuum but are influenced by the ideas of others.

What does this have to do with what I’m trying to accomplish at home with my gardening? Nothing, only that you shouldn’t take advice from people that don’t garden. Also, I think sometimes we think solutions come in the form of complicated hi-tech-like packages. The idea that Watson thought of using building blocks similar to what a child plays with to begin building his DNA structure had some think he and the notion absurd. On a random note, a urban farmer I follow on Youtube was asked why he doesn’t do hydroponics and while he isn’t opposed to it said that technology should be appropriate to your context. You don’t need to go into debt to build a business, you don’t need a lot of land to grow food, and you don’t need hi-tech to keep it sustainable.

With that said, here’s an ingenious lo-tech idea for dryland irrigation using clay pots going one step further to attaching rope to serve as a drip line.

June 2, 2016

Uprooting, transplanting, propagating and hedging

Early spring of this year I dug out eight of our nine box plants that were lining the front of our home and transplanted them elsewhere. Four of the plants were medium size (about 22″) and four small (about 14″). The small plants recovered astonishingly well but the medium sized plants unfortunately went into shock, more than I have ever seen before on a plant. Obviously they were not happy and I felt horrible about uprooting them. It was a lot of work digging them up and I vowed I would never dig up a plant this size and type again ever. There were a few factors that accounted for their shock and lessons learned. When the leaves turned brown and started to fall I amended the soil again and cut the bad branches out. I also cleaned up the roots. The next day I felt very encouraged when I saw little green buds starting to appear on the branches already. I had seen this before so I got the cutters out again and cut back hard three of the four plants that were most affected. If you want to know what it means to hope, gardening will do it.

Below is an image of the ninth box plant I left in front of the house. I didn’t think of trying to move this plant as it measures 30″ in height and 10″ more in width. While it is not a huge plant, it is amazing how huge a plant becomes once you think of moving it. The lighter green and red tips shows new growth.

Which is also happening on the plants I transplanted. The plant below was cut back the hardest and is showing a good deal of regeneration.


Interestingly enough, the plant I did the least cut back has fewer regrowth despite it having lost fewer leaves from the transplant shock.


Which has given me ideas for making more plants for hedging our new potager (which is a whole new blog post). I wish I had given more thought to plant propagation and seed saving years ago but now that I am aware of it and have the time to do more with our garden, I’m excited to try it out. It’s like a whole new world has opened itself up to me.