Archives for May 2013

DIY Raised Garden Beds

A few months ago I was feeling sorry for myself that another season was going to pass where I didn’t get to plant food (I missed last season because we had purchased our current house and spent April-July remodeling it to get it move-in ready). Our exterior has endless work to get done and building raised beds wasn’t very high up on Jeff’s to-do list. I mentioned it in a forlorn way about a goo-gillion times sort of like this: “I am so bummed that I am not planning my garden right now”, “do you really think it would be that big of a deal to put raised beds together”, “honey, what are you thinking about a garden this year?”, etc. you get the point. So, like any sensible man who wants to quit hearing about the same thing ad nauseum, he went and bought some lumber and started building. I think he was happy he did it though, because for the next few days I couldn’t quit smiling and I kept saying over and over, “I am pretty sure you making me raised beds is my love language” and it is. Some people want quality time, some people want words of affirmation, I want a garden.

as an aside, my husband is sitting on the couch while I type this and he just said: “Is there anywhere specific you’d want to go eat on Wednesday (my birthday) if I decided to let you not cook?” I laugh, and then he says “watch your attitude, because I haven’t decided yet”…laughing is also my love language.

Anyway, these pictures aren’t going to grace the cover of Living anytime soon, since I already mentioned that our exterior is our current “project” but if you want to make truly simple raised beds (Jeff says they take around 45 minutes to make and cost around $25 each for materials), so that you too can be smiling all summer here is what you will need for 1 3×6 box that is 12 inches deep:

1. a chop-saw

2. a box of coated framing nails

3. a drill

4. a hammer

5. a box of 2.5 inch deck screws

6. 3 12 ft. 2×6 untreated lumber (for sides)

7. 1/2 of an 8 ft. 4×4 (for corners)

8. scrap 2×4 for optional cleats

DIY raised garden beds

{the last 2 pictures are progress pictures, still have a long way to go…but see all that glorious food growing? Doesn’t get more fresh and local then your front yard}

 Here’s what you do:

1. Cut 2×6 into 4 6 ft. lengths and 4 3 ft. lengths

2. Cut 4 10.5 inch lengths from the 4×4

3. Cut  2 8 inch lengths of 2×4  for cleats

4. Nail 2 boxes together separately

5. Stack on top of each other

6. Screw corner posts in (& optional cleats in the center of the long lengths)

7. Fill with good soil

8. Plant seeds and starts

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If you are a beginner to gardening here are some tips that I wish we had when we first began:

1. No matter how cheap DO NOT be tempted to buy these tomato cages:

crappy tomato cage

they are awful. They WILL tip over. Your tomato plants (if you live in the Northwest) will get larger than you can possibly imagine and by the time you realize your mistake your toppled over scrawny tomato cages will be completely intertwined with your plants and you will end up doing some weird homemade reinforcement structure…Save yourself the trouble, spend a little more money and buy these:

folding tomato cageor, make these DIY tomato cages:

diy sturdy tomato cage

{click here for the tutorial to make these super-sturdy tomato cages}

you will laugh when you see your tiny tomato starts surrounded by the fort knox of tomato cages, but you will be patting yourself on the back in August when you are harvesting tomatoes.

2. Thin your seedlings early and often. It feels a little sad after you have planted and watered your little seeds to pull more than half of them out when they arrive, but you need to give them enough room to grow, so don’t be shy, pull them out.

3. Give your plants some breathing room. Everything will get bigger than you think so give it the room to grow.

4. Trellis as much as you can. Unless you have tons of space, going up is the best way to maximize what you can plant. Here is some more info about how to grow vegetables on a trellis.

5. Buy good soil. Organic is best.

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Need some more inspiration? Here is an old garden post with lots of pictures of our garden at our last house. Or here is my pinterest garden board

Happy gardening.

Food Love: Meringues & Poppyseed Cake

I have been thinking of writing some food posts for awhile. It just makes sense since the kitchen is the heart of my home and where I spend half my day.  So, I am going to start with a dessert duo I whipped up last week, beginning with one of my favorites: meringues. I never knew I liked them until I ordered them at multiple bakeries around Portugal on a trip years ago. They were huge and perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside and filled with nuts or chocolate. The perfect confection in every way. They were NOTHING like the dry, overly sugared variety you can buy in tubs at trader joes. Apples to Oranges. Delicious apples to pretty grody oranges. If you have never had a homemade meringue, and judged all meringues by the store bought variety, I am telling you you are truly missing out on one of the best and simplest desserts. Just look at these next to each other & determine for yourself which looks tastier:

meringues{meringues at the Borough Market in London, Trader Joe’s meringues}

I came back from my trip hoping to find something like the ones I had in Europe & had almost given up when my foodie friend Becca took me to the super-fabulous-none-compares-to-it-bakery Tartine in San Francisco & there they were. For some reason that I am unsure of they call them rochers instead of meringues, but they are one and the same. Then a year or two later, the same foodie friend gave me this:

tartine bakery cookbookThese people are amazing chefs (as in they won the Outstanding Pastry Chef  James Beard award) and I am poor at following instructions (thus my total failure at making the shaker style lemon pie from this book), but if you stick to the recipe in their book, you too can be eating delicious “rochers” in no time. I especially love them with toasted almonds…Or put the nuts and mini chocolate chips in together-total food bliss! As an aside, if you are ever in SF you should absolutely take the trek over to Tartine and fill your bags with delicious goodies to take home to your loved ones, they will thank you!

Meringues are simple, but they can be a little tricky if they are exposed to too much humidity or if you don’t use enough sugar so don’t get too creative with the recipe. This one is pretty fool-proof if you don’t happen to have a copy of the Tartine cookbook. I have made them a few times and increased the amount of whites/sugar to get a bigger batch with good results. I also added a little more cocoa than the recipe calls for and chopped up some high quality chocolate and threw it in (didn’t have cocoa nibs). If you have any left over don’t store them in air tight containers, or else they will loose the crunch and get sticky. Here is a picture of how they turned out:

chewy meringues

{here is the recipe for these chewy chocolate meringues}

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Once you have made your meringues you will find that you have a whole bunch of egg yolks left over. In my case beautiful orange yolks from our neighbors chicken eggs, not to be wasted. You could make creme brule or a custard and that would be lovely. In my case I decided to try a new recipe and found a site that gives you dozens of recipes intended for left over yolks (who knew? the world wide web truly has everything). I read through a bunch of them and decided on a poppyseed cake from Smitten Kitchen. It was delicious. Not too sweet with good texture.  Texture is pretty much the most important thing to me when eating. I don’t eat entire bags of pirates booty for the flavor, it’s the strangely addictive styrofoam texture. Anyhoo, here is the cake:

poppyseed cake

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Happy Baking!

p.s. the picture of the trader joe’s meringues is from a post re:food photography from A Beach Home Companion