Category Archives: garden

Salsa Fresca

Want to know the secret to making the most delicious salsa on earth?  It’s simple: grow yo’ sh*t.   You don’t need a garden to grow your own tomatoes, a large container will suffice, and they taste so much better than the impostors at the supermarket.  There really is no comparison. Last spring,  Sunset Magazine had a great article on “salsa in a pot”, so I tried it out this year.  I grew tomatoes, jalapeños, and herbs in large containers, then grew the onions in my raised bed.  It’s fun to freeze jars of garden salsa to enjoy during the oh-so-dreary winter months.   D-to-the-licious. This has been my simple go-to recipe all summer:

6 large, super ripe garden tomatoes, seeded, chopped coarse
1 large white onion, peeled, chopped coarse
1 or 2 jalapeño peppers, roasted, seeded
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed (I tend to go big here)
1 teaspoon blue agave sweetner
zest +fresh juice of one lime
salt + pepper

My mother, a veteran burn nurse,  is not going to be pleased with the above photograph.  Sorry, mom!   I always roast my jalapeños over an open flame before chopping them up.  I like the deep flavor and the charred little bits.  My host mom in Mexico used to do this all the time, but she was a pro….so…attempt at your own risk. 🙂

Put everything in the food processor, reserving a handful of chopped tomatoes.  Process until smooth but chunky (does that make sense?!  You know what I mean)…

Then toss in the reserved tomatoes and pulse a few times, depending on how chunky you like it.

Grab a bag of Juanita’s chips (the best, most addictive chips on the planet) and chow down.


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Filed under appetizer, condiments, garden, mexican, tomatoes, vegetarian

Instagram Monday

July has flown by at its usual manic pace, and we’ve been busily checking things off of our “Summer To-Do” list.  Here are some “Instagram” shots of last week’s adventures…

My cutting garden FINALLY has blooms!  This makes me giddy…

Check out this cute little tomato plant.  It randomly seeded itself in my flower garden…I don’t have the heart to rip it out.

We planted potatoes for the first time this year and ate our first batch this week…so fun!

And we finally got away for a little camping over the weekend.  The weather was gorgeous!

Our camping menus included Trader Joe’s Carne Asada tacos for dinner and homemade granola for breakfast, with marion berries from the Hood River Farmer’s Market…

On our way home, we stopped at the Apple Valley Country Store to load up on apricot jam and huckleberry milkshakes…so good!

It was a fun week…finally feels like summer is here!

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THINGS I LIKE: liquid sunshine wheatgrass

Because the weather has been shite…and because I like to keep my hands dirty, I recently planted some Liquid Sunshine Wheatgrass.  It grows quickly and makes a great springtime centerpiece!
DAY ONE:  Plant the seeds according to packet directions, then place the pots in a sunny, south facing window.
DAY FIVE:  The sprouts emerge quickly!

After one week the grass measured about 4 inches in height.
FUN FACTS about wheatgrass juice (by Botanical Interests, Inc.):
  • It has more vitamin C than OJ
  • Helps purify the liver (ahem…if you need that sort of thing)
  • Keeps hair from turning gray (what???) 
Caution:  Do NOT put wheatgrass in your normal juicer as it may clog it.  They manufacture commercial juicers that produce the liquid, so double check before you try it in yours!  Most people grind it up and add a little water.   OR….you can just put it on your dining room table, where it looks REALLY cute.

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THINGS I LIKE: spring blooms AND rush creek planters

SPRING IS HERE!  SPRING IS HERE!  (Insert Navin R. Johnson and his new phonebook here.)

While I realize that we are not completely out of the woods, at least we can see a teeny tiny light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.  Rain, sun, hail, snow, sun, rain, wind….welcome to a typical spring day in Oregon!  It’s still a bit early to fire up the garden, but I did plant my first flowers on Sunday afternoon.  YESSSSS.   This could not come a minute too soon, as I’ve been in major bloom withdrawals.

Early spring is the perfect time for one of my favorite flowers: ranunculus.  Here are my happy flowers, in one of my favorite planters by Rush Creek Designs.  Hood River’s adorable Good News Gardening carries a variety of these planters, including their biodegradable Juniper collection.

The bright colors and modern designs take me to my happy place:

Hellloooo spring….it’s nice to see you again!

SUN EXPOSURE: Full to Partial
SEASON: Late Late Spring/Early Summer
WATER:  Keep soil moist and well drained. Avoid overwatering
FERTILIZER:  High Nitrogen
*Deadhead regularly to encourage new blooms!*

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FLOWER POWER: Swan Island Dahlias

A couple of years ago, with great trepidation, I planted my first vegetable garden.  While I realize that gardening is hardly rocket science, this was a huge step as #1) I hate yard work and #2) I am a plant killer. We started with a small raised bed garden, which I highly recommend if you are a new (plant murdering) gardener like me.
After harvesting buckets of tomatoes, snap peas, strawberries, cucumbers, and carrots,  I was hooked.  And I was (almost) ready to move on to new territory: flowers….
Since moving in, our yard has been a work in progress.  We’ve tackled the projects on our own, with the help of our dream team: Matt’s sister and her wonderful husband.  My sister-in-law is a little pioneer woman at heart and it was her idea to convert this large (insert: awkward and useless) peninsula of grass into a cutting garden.  I loved the “idea” of growing flowers, but the reality of it sent shivers down my spine.  It took me a while to shake off memories of the dead drooping peonies in my previous yard.
One thing stood in the way of our (well…MY) dreams of freshly cut flower bouquets: sod.  My husband helped me to rip out the existing sod, a task that he found delightful–as evidenced by the picture above.  After that, he warned, I was on my own.
Left with a clean slate, I began to have panic attacks over what to do with it.  My friend suggested that I plant Dahlias and introduced me to Swan Island Dahlias.  It didn’t take long for me to become ADDICTED.  With names like: Gay Princess, Boogie Nights, Tutti Frutti, and Bed Head, I could hardly tear myself away from their website.  The best part is that they deliver the dahlia tubers to your doorstep, complete with growing instructions, and they guarantee them.
I also wanted to plant Zinnias and found the following varieties from Renee’s Garden: Granny’s Bouquet, Raggedy Ann, and dwarf Thumbelinas.  They are so easy to grow from seed and their blooms come back over and over again.
To avoid having a huge dirt patch after growing season, I also planted lavender, purple cone flower, and black eyed susan perennials.  Here they are all planted (you can click on the images to enlarge them):
Now, GROW…GROW…GROW!!!!!!!

Drum roll…….
Introducing: Raggedy Ann, Granny’s Bouquet, and Thumbelina Zinnias:
Gay Princess Dahlias:
We filled vase after vase all summer long….magical.
Boogie Nights Dahlias:
 Bed Head and Boogie Nights Dahlias mixed with  Raggedy Ann Zinnias:
The blooms have been going strong, clear into NOVEMBER!
Dahlias mixed with Chrysanthemums from Kings Mums:
LOVE.  I have literally had a love affair with these flowers.  I may have even cried a little when it came time to take some of them out of the ground.  But….I am already fantasizing about next summer’s crop.  Sigh….

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Oh, summer…how I will miss you.  Farewell, fresh cut flowers from the garden. So long,  sweet strawberries.  Adios, vine ripened tomatoes….until we meet again. 

For many of us, summer felt like a quick blip on the radar screen.  Fortunately, I was able to harvest enough red tomatoes to make a few rounds of my favorite summer pasta.  Unfortunately, I have MANY green tomatoes still left on the vine (thank you, Food Day, for your recent section on green tomato recipes!!!).  

This garden tomato sauce has become a summer staple for us and we can’t seem to get enough of it.  We hope to enjoy a lot more of it next summer….

6 – 8 large tomatoes
4 – 6 medium garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flake
1/2 teaspoon sugar
black pepper

Prepare Tomatoes: 
Remove stems.  Cut an “X” through the skin on the bottom.  Submerge in pot of boiling water until skin begins to peel off (30-60 seconds).  Plunge into ice bath. Once cooled, remove remaining skin, cut tomato in half (along the equator) and remove seeds.  

Prepare Sauce: 
In a large skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering.  Add garlic and chili flake, saute for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Add roughly chopped, seeded tomatoes and one teaspoon salt.  Simmer for about 15 minutes or until liquid evaporates out and sauce thickens (I sometimes use a potato masher to crush the tomatoes).  Add 1/2 teaspoon sugar and black pepper.  

Toss with your favorite pasta and toppings.

Our “summer garden pasta” usually includes: linguine tossed with fresh basil, chopped kalamata olives, feta, and/or grana cheese.  It is also great with sauteed prawns.

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Fresh pasta sauce, anyone?

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