Category Archives: gardening

Yard Makeover and a Recipe

I wanted to share some photos of our recent yard makeover! I am ridiculously excited about it. Our yard is very big. It’s a great space for a dog to run around. The problem is that the upkeep is very hard. Every year we end up spending the entire summer working on battling the blackberry bushes and weeds and we barely make a dent in it. That’s no fun AND it means we have to make a decision every weekend–do we do responsible adult stuff or go for a hike and enjoy the summer?

So this year we decided it was time to bring in a professional. I got a name from a friend and Oscar came out and gave us a good quote. We hired him on the spot. Him and his crew came out and in one day they transformed our entire backyard!

I wanted to share the photos because I’m so excited about it! (And if you live in Portland and want Oscar’s info, message me!)

Before:

After:

They managed to get rid of all the ivy and blackberry bushes that were clogging up the fence and bushes (and edged the lawn).

And in the other corner of the yard, the blackberry bushes had completely taken over.

Before:

After:

NO BLACKBERRY BUSHES! Not a weed in sight! They trimmed the trees and bushes and it looks amazing! We were so happy with Oscar’s work. There is no way we could have even come close to making the yard look like they did.

The next weekend we had Johnson’s Bark come out and put down bark. We went with the dark Hemlock. About 5 years ago Michael had done it all himself and it was a back-breaking, multiple day effort on his part. This time? They used a giant hose to spray the bark around the yard.

After the bark dust:

How amazing does it look now? We LOVE it!! Our yard makeover in addition to have the deck rebuilt last year means we are going to spend a LOT of time outside in the yard this summer. I’d really like to get a firepit and spend as much time out there as possible.

The next thing to do: plant our veggie garden and some other plants in the yard. (I also still need to plant our living Christmas tree, ooops!) Then we are going to build a little rock path through the yard. We’re also talking about building a fire pit.

Well the weather has been kind of nice lately. Last night we sat outside on our new deck to eat dinner and enjoy our yard! Here’s the amazing recipe we used:

My Sister's Phenomenal Grilled Green Chicken

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Calories per serving: Between 450-600 depending on chicken size

From: http://nomnompaleo.com/post/7486821187/my-sisters-phenomenal-grilled-green-chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet onion, peeled and coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1¼ cups packed basil leaves
  • ¼ cup packed mint leaves
  • ¼ cup Red Boat fish sauce
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves
  • zest from 1 lime
  • plenty ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice (or 1 teaspoon maple syrup if you’re not on a Whole30)
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 pounds chicken drumsticks or thighs

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade by blitzing the onion, cilantro, basil, mint, fish sauce, garlic, lime zest, black pepper, Aleppo pepper, and apple juice in a high powered blender until smooth.
  2. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste. The marinade can be pretty salty, saltier than if the marinade is used as a sauce.
  3. Place the chicken in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and pour the marinade over it.
  4. Store the chicken in the fridge and marinate for at least an hour and up to a day.
  5. When you're ready to cook the chicken, take it out of the fridge an hour before you're going to grill it. (If you are baking the chicken, roast on a wire rack for ~35-45 minutes at 400 F. Start with skin-side down, and flip skin-side up at the 20 minute mark.)
  6. Set the gas grill on high and after the chicken is placed on the grates, decrease the temperature immediately to low.
  7. Grill the chicken for approximately 25 minutes (or until the internal temperature reaches 165 F), turning every 5-7 minutes. But be patient: Don’t go and flip the bird (legs, that is) before they naturally release from the grill surface – otherwise, you’ll leave a lot of tasty, crispy, marinated skin stuck on the grates!
  8. Serve the drumsticks with lime wedges.
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=52086

It was so nice sitting outside on the deck in the warm, sunny evening.

I had a salad and a glass of wine. Logan was refusing to go to sleep (we really need to get some black-out curtains).

The chicken was really, really delicious! This recipe is a winner. Definitely recommend. 🙂

Hot Pickled Peppers

Before I get to the peppers, I want to start with pickles. If you remember, I made some pickles this summer. I tried two different types of recipes. The first one was a cooked brine recipe. The second was a simpler pickling recipe (not cooked). The first batch I made (in the above link) was FANTASTIC except for one thing…the flavor was fabulous, the crunch was PERFECT. Michael said they were the best. The problem? They were too salty! Like nearly inedible too salty (at least for me, Michael said they weren’t that bad). I was so disappointed that my pickles didn’t work out. I was glad I was able to nail the crunch and the flavor, but what about the salt? How do I fix that? I followed the recipe…

So I decided to give it another go with a packet of dill pickle mix that I bought. I want to at least get one batch of pickles correct before I experiment with other flavors and methods.

IMG_8965

It was super easy. Boil the vinegar, water and pickle mix, then ladle it into the jars and then can the jars. The canning took 10 minutes (much quicker than other canning recipes–like tomatoes for example). The mixture smelled really good. I added some sliced jalapenos into a few of the jars to see if they turn out spicy dill pickles. 😀

pickles

On a side note, a friend gave us some sweet pickles that were pickled with sliced jalapenos and OH MY GOD. It’s like spicy candy! So good! I need to get her recipe for that because that’s my next experiment.

The Verdict

I think I’m done with pickles. I’ve tried three different recipes and so far, no go. This one was okay– the flavors were perfect and they weren’t too salty like the first two attempts. The problem? They weren’t crunchy! I like crunchy pickles and I’m annoyed they didn’t work. But if you don’t mind non-crunchy pickles, the flavor is really great.

The Peppers

We’ve had a zillion, bazillion jalapeno peppers this summer. And we didn’t plant as many plants as we did last year when we got a zillion bazillion peppers! We still had pickled jalapenos from last summer’s batch when this year’s started to ripen. Oy vey.

I finally convinced Michael to give away some of last year’s batch and we made some room in our garage fridge for this year’s batch. Michael worked tirelessly to slice and pickle the jalapenos. We still had tons. We gave his mom three huge ziplock bags of peppers so she could pickle her own (they are from Texas, they put hot stuff one everything!).

Well it turned out one of the pepper plants I got was a random cayenne pepper plant. No idea how that happened. The pretty little shriveled red peppers grew in like crazy and I had no idea what to do with them. I started drying a batch of them and then decided I should try my hand at make some hot sauce, too.

IMG_8963

I poked around to find some different recipes. I was looking for easy recipes and ones that I could either pickle or can to keep longer. I found a few different options and decided to give this one a try.

PART ONE

Here is the recipe I used:

Hot Pickled Peppers Sauce

From: http://remcooks.com/2012/09/30/hot-pickled-pepper-sauce/

Ingredients

  • Ripe cayenne peppers, stemmed
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt
  • purified water (not tap water)

Instructions

  1. Sterilize a 1 pint jar and lid.
  2. Add the cayenne peppers and garlic to the pint jar filing it as best you can.
  3. Add salt.
  4. Cover the cayenne peppers with bottled spring water or water filtered through reverse osmosis. Now, some of you are asking why bottled water? Well my friends, tap water contains Chloramine to prevent disease causing bacteria and pathogens. Chloramine (as CI2) is formed when ammonia is added to water containing free chlorine. So if you remove the chlorine, the ammonia stays. This will inhibit the production of lactobacilli bacteria and create other issues when you pickle something. So don’t use tap water. If you must use tap water, add 1 tsp white vinegar to the brine to help “kick start” the fermentation process.
  5. Place lid on top and tighten securely. Place in a cool (68 – 75 F), dark place. Now, here’s the hard part. LEAVE IT ALONE FOR 2 WEEKS!
  6. After 2 weeks have passed, place chiles, garlic and brine in a blender and blend at its highest speed for 1 minute.
  7. Pour into cute jars for later use. Enjoy!
http://www.110pounds.com/?p=47835

This website had a few different variations on making the hot sauce, too, so if you’re interested check out the link and read through the alternatives. Since it was my first attempt I went with the original, simple version. Chopped up some garlic, de-stemmed the peppers, a little salt and the bottled water and that’s it.

Basically I pickled the peppers for a few weeks and then when I found the time, I got down to making the sauce!

IMG_8964

PART TWO

A few weeks later…After sitting in the dark pantry for a bit. Put it in my bullet and blended! I ended up just doing one jar. The 2nd jar looked a little…funky. There was a white film growing in it and maybe that was normal? But it looked iffy to me so I tossed it. I blended everything up in the Bullet until smooth. If you want it less watery, don’t use all the water from the jar (I did).

IMG_9321

The Verdict

Holy fire! SPICY as hell! Great flavor, great smell, really garlicky. But it is HOT. A little bit of this will go a long ways. Per the website I used for the recipe, it will keep in the fridge for 6 months.