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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Garden Compass App

It's been a busy few months! I unexpectedly sold my house to my neighbor's sister and managed, within a couple of months, to find a newer bigger and better home that's 15 minutes closer to work. It was a little more than I originally planned to spend but still affordable. I had an awesome realtor to help me with the journey. If you're looking for a realtor in the Redmond area, Mark Mizuno from John L. Scott is your guy! He's got mad negotiating skills.

I was debating whether to get a house with a smaller yard with closer neighbors or a house in the boonies with acreage or somewhere in between. Either way I wanted to be a little closer to work. I decided on a large 3 bedroom that looks like it's in the boonies but is actually only a couple min drive from Monroe. I'm on .5 acres in the Sky Valley and the majority of it is heavily landscaped. There's probably at least 100 trees, flowers and bushes on the property to take care of in addition to 6 chickens and a decent sized garden and greenhouse. The grass looks small in comparison but it appears to take longer to mow than the old house so I may be investing in a riding mower in the near future. It will be more work than the old house but much more rewarding.

I couldn't identify half of the things growing around my new yard so I decided to try an iphone app called Garden Compass. I've read about many apps that you can take a picture and it will immediately tell you what it thinks it is and most of them don't work as well as advertised, very inaccurate. This app however works differently. You take a picture and it emails it to a team of plant identifiers and someone actually looks at the photo and tries to identify it. If they aren't positive what it is they will let you know and may ask you to send in another photo when the plant is flowering to be sure. I only had that happen with one of the plants I submitted and the answers I got all seemed to be pretty spot on from what I can tell.

The pros of the app:
  • Free
  • 20 submissions per month
  • 24 hour response in most cases
  • Accurate
  • Easy to use
  • Some helpful info about the plant is included with the identification response
  • Can also identifies plant problems and how to fix (have not used this feature yet)
The app is great but it also has room for improvement and more features.
  • Not all past answers are viewable in app so keep your email notifications
  • No easy view of past answers. Could use a table view of past answers viewable on PC (outside of app)
  • Lots of ads in app when viewing past answers. Need paid version with no ads.
  • Could use a searchable database of own submissions as well as others and include fields for amount of sun and water needed for each plant.
These were my 20 submissions for the month of August:
  1. Asian Stewartia (stewartia)
  2. Twisted Locust (robinia pseudoacacia) 
  3. Contorted Filbert (corylus avellana ‘contorta’) 
  4. Honeysuckle Vine (lonicera) 
  5. Turtlehead (chelone) 
  6. Meadow Rue (thalictrum?)
  7. Matrona Stonecrop (sedum matrona) 
  8. False Spiraea (astilbe chinensis) 
  9. Japanese Iris (iris ensata) 
  10. Phlox (phlox paniculata)
  11. Lupine  (lupinus species)
  12. Gayfeather (liatris spicata) 
  13. Epimediem & Oxalis (triangularis) 
  14. Variegated Red Twig Dogwood (cornus alba) 
  15. Weigela (weigela cultivar) 
  16. Doublefile Viburnum (viburnum plicatum tomentosum) 
  17. Goldflame Spirea (spirea x bumalda 'goldflame')
  18. Lily of the Nile (agapanthus) 
  19. Smoke Bush or Tree (continus spp) 
  20. Meadow Bistort (persicaria bistorta)
Landscaping Collage
iphone images sent to Garden Compass
Back Yard
The back yard with garden, fruit trees and chickens.
Front Front Yard
The front yard at the end of the drive way
Front Yard Front Yard Another View
The front yard between the house and garage

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pine Creek Nursery - Tastes from the Garden

It was Michelle Newell that introduced me to Pine Creek Nursery via a Facebook post. I practically drive by it every day but never really noticed it before. I decided to visit one day after work a few months ago and picked up a few flowers for a container. While there, I signed up for their mailing list and I got my first newsletter a few weeks ago. They have lots of events from concerts to dinners.  Mark took me to their "Tastes from the Garden" four course meal (technically it was five courses) for a late birthday present. The dinner was outside, straight through the store on a lovely stamped concrete patio. They have a hardscaped stage surrounded by flowers and trees where they must have the bands play. There were several tables set up with place settings topped with a bouquet of rosemary and lavender. We didn't notice until we left that there were name tags on the tables so we didn't actually sit where we were supposed to but apparently the table we sat at was not reserved because it didn't have one on it.
Place Setting Pine Creek Nursery Outdoor Stage

Each table was served a plate of homemade artisan bread with a bowl of compound butter which didn't count as one of the courses. It wasn't gluten free bread so I didn't eat much of it but I did have a little taste just to try it and it was good. Soon after the bread was served, someone from Gregarious Cellars came by with a bottle of white wine. It's not a winery I've ever heard of and probably very few people have. As far as I know the only place you can get it is at the nursery. They have a tasting room there that's open Sat/Sun 12-5. Mark and I are not fans of white wines but it was the first wine that was brought around. You get one glass with dinner and we wanted to save it for a red so we didn't get a full glass of the white but we did get a taste and we were pleasantly surprised. It was probably the best white wine we've had. It was a 2011 Roussanne wine which is a French grape that I'd never heard of. It was so good that Mark bought a bottle on the way out. Even though we really enjoyed the tasting of white we both decided to try the Syrah which is my favorite red wine and it didn't disappoint; it had a strong pepper finish which is just the way I like it. We also got a glass of the red blend which was also good but we both liked the Syrah better.
Fresh Artisan Bread Gregarious Cellars Roussanne

Chef Aaron Brown presented each dish and answered questions about each one. After everyone was served he would also go around to each table answering more questions and asking how everything was.
Chef Aaron Brown

I enjoyed everything and most of the dishes were presented well with the exception of the main course. It wasn't very consistently plated and if it were me I would have presented the chicken on top of the bed of rice. Mark's was plated with the chicken and rice on opposite ends of the plate with about 2 inches separating them. Most of the dishes were made from scratch (except for the yogurt) and most of the ingredients were local (except for the chicken) with most of the vegetables coming from Willie Greens Organic Farm in Monroe.
Grilled Vegetables with Beef Chorizo Green Salad with Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette Ceviche Chicken and Rice with Dill Cream Sauce Berries and Vanilla Yogurt

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dairy Free Mint Ice Cream Recipe

Dairy Free Mint Ice Cream It's been hotter than heck in Washington this summer so when I saw this recipe for Mint Ice Cream in the last issue of Paleo Magazine I had to try it. This is my newest magazine subscription and I'm really enjoying it and the recipes section of each issue. Each recipe is a full page and includes a nice photo too. They do recipes rights!

Not only is this ice cream dairy free but it is also refined sugar free. It's sweetened with honey and stevia and tastes amazingly like the mint ice cream I grew up with and you'd never know it was dairy free. It does have some odd ingredients in it which makes it the healthiest ice cream you've probably ever had. Spinach and avocado don't sound like ingredients that belong in an ice cream but it works. It's what gives the ice cream it's minty green color. Mint chocolate chip was my favorite ice cream when I was a kid and haven't had it in a long time so it brought back some nice memories.

The recipe called for adding chocolate chips but since Mark doesn't eat chocolate, I left them out and topped mine with cacao nibs and the new gluten free version of Bob's RedMill Honey Oat Granola which doesn't appear to be available on Amazon yet but can be found on Bob's RedMill site.

I'm not only posting this recipe for you all but also for me so I can find it easily and make it again!

Recipe: Dairy Free Mint Ice Cream

Adapted from Paleo Magazine's June/July 2014 issue: Mint Chip Ice Cream
Yield: approximately 1 pint (4 servings)
Total time: 35 minutes

1 medium ripe avocado, pitted
1 14 oz can coconut milk
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 cups fresh spinach
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
10 drops liquid stevia

TOPPINGS (optional):
cacao nibs

1. Scoop avocado flesh and remaining ingredients into a blender, except toppings, and blend until smooth and creamy.
2. Transfer to an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions.
3. Serve immediately and add toppings as desired or freeze in an air tight container until ready to serve. (Thaw 20 mins at room temperature before serving
If you are looking for a good container for storing your ice cream, I highly recommend these containers by Zak Designs. I have two of these that I bought for an ice cream social and they kept the ice cream frozen longer than the others.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

How to Cook Chickpeas and Chickpea Salad Recipe

Uncooked vs Cooked Chickpeas 
I've always bought canned chickpeas aka garbonzo beans but decided to be adventurous and get dried beans. Typically you would soak the beans in water overnight but I discovered a quicker way to prepare them that doesn't take several hours.

Quick Soaking Chickpeas

Time: 3 hours
  1. Pour the beans out onto a flat surface and sort through them, looking for any rocks and other debris and remove them. 
  2. Put the beans in a large pot and cover with a couple of inches of water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the pot of beans from the heat and cover and let soak for 1 hour.
  4. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse with cold water.
  5. Put the beans back into the pot and cover with another couple of inches of cold water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover and let simmer for 1 hour.
  6. Remove from heat and stir in a bit of salt if you'd like. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  7. Drain and they are ready to enjoy! You may store in the fridge for a few days or in the freezer for a few months.
I've always only made hummus with chickpeas and it was the first thing I made after trying this quick soaking method but I came across a recipe for Zucchini Chickpea Quinoa Salad in my Facebook newsfeed posted by A Cedar Spoon. I just happened to have all the ingredients for it too. Love when I come across recipes that I don't have to go out and buy a bunch of stuff for. I even had quinoa in the fridge already cooked. I actually thought I was out of zucchini and had planned on using cucumber in its place but low and behold I found a zucchini waiting to be eaten. I did however make a couple of minor alterations to the original recipe. I added some chopped red bell pepper and I thought it could use a little acid so added some apple cider vinegar. Lemon juice would probably work well with the recipe too.

Recipe: Chickpea Salad

Adapted from: A Cedar Spoon's Zucchini Chickpea Quinoa Salad
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 20 minutes

1.5 Cups cooked or canned chickpeas
1.5 Cups cooked quinoa
1 medium zucchini, cubed
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste

4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
1.5 tsp cumin
1.5 tsp tumeric
1 tsp paprika

1. Mix first 6 ingredients together in a medium sized bowl.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together.
3. Add dressing to the bowl of vegetables and quinoa and stir together until well mixed.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

MTHFR and Folate Conversion

MTHFR is one of a few genes responsible for converting folic acid/inactive forms of folate into an active form that your body can utilize. I've written about it a little in the past, see my posts labeled "Health". It stands for Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. Having this gene, specifically the C667T or A1298C variations, of which I have both, slows down the folate conversion process. MTHFR is not the only gene that can slow it down but is the most well known. I've been reading a lot about this over the last couple of years as I believe it to be related to some health issues that have come up since I had skin exposure to chemicals in epoxy. As more and more people are overcoming illnesses by supporting the folate cycle, the knowledge of it is spreading and more health professionals are starting to learn about it and introducing it into their practices.

The Folate Cycle

Dr. Ben Lynch who has been researching this for many years has put together a new diagram showing 9 other genes involved in the folate cycle. It appears, based on my 23andme results, I have 7 of the 10 genes which I would guess is more than average so I have more of a need for folate than most. I am homozygous (double mutation) FOLR2, SLC19a1, MTHFD1, TYMS and heterozygous (single mutation) MTHFS, DHFR, MTHFR. The other three are FOLR1, SHMT1 and MTR. Even if you have a lot of these genes you could still live a healthy life by wise food choices, low stress and a toxic free environment. If one or more of those isn't right in your life than you are at a high risk of your genes becoming expressed and having to deal with health issues. It's my belief that the epoxy contact triggered some of these genes to express and start causing my health problems.

Forms of Folate

It's important to note that folic acid is just one form of folate and is the most easily found in supplements and foods we eat but it is an inactive, synthetic form and requires those 10 genes to successfully convert it into an active form so that is the last thing you should take. It's best to get your folate from food sources or active forms of folate because taking a lot of the synthetic folic acid will increase your unmetabolized folic acid (UMFA) which could cause a lot of other issues like an increased risk of cancer.

Active forms of folate: 

  • L-5-MTHF = 6(S)-L-MTHF
  • L-Methylfolate Calcium = Metafolin = Levomefolic Acid
  • Metafolin
  • Quatrefolic
  • Levomefolic Acid
Avoid forms that start with a D or 6R because those are not biologically active forms. Also avoid methyl folates that don't start with L or 6(S) because you don't know for sure if it's active or inactive.  More info on the different forms of folate on mthfr.net. Sublingual and injections are better absorbed than a pill form. There is also a body cream that is made by Neurobiologix that looks to be a good option that I'm going to try. They list 5-MTHF as the form of folate which drew a red flag so I contacted the company directly and in an hour I got a reply stating they use Quatrefolic which is a good active form. The product also contains active forms of B12 (Methyl & Hydroxy) which you may also be deficient in if you have a folate deficiency. You can get this Neuro-Immune Stabilizer Cream from Amazon or directly from Neurobiologix.

Foods high in folate:
  • liver
  • uncooked leafy greens
  • okra
  • asparagus
  • beans, lentils & peas
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds

Are you folate deficient?

How do you know if you are deficient in folate and not getting enough active forms?  You can't really rely on a normal folate RBC test because it tests for both active and inactive forms and if you have trouble converting folate like I do your lab test results will most likely be sky high because of all of the UMFA in your system. Metametrix happens to have a lab test that breaks out the UMFA and Active form of folate which can be helpful in determining if you are getting enough active forms and if you need to reduce your intake of folic acid. I haven't taken this test myself since I am no longer taking any folic acid but it looks to be helpful test. I have noticed my RBC Folate numbers are coming down recently (they've always been sky high in the past) which makes me believe my UMFA is going down and my body is using the active folate I've been supplementing with. 

MTHFR and the other folate conversion genes are just one part of the methylation cycle that helps with detoxification, immune function, mood balancing, energy production and controlling inflammation so it is very important to your well being that it is functioning properly.


If you decide to start supplementing with active forms of folate, start very slow because not everyone can tolerate a full dose due to other issues in the methylation cycle that may need to be supported first. If you take it and feel side effects like aches pains or increased irritability stop taking it and take some niacin and the symptoms should subside quickly. You will need to go back and support some of the other pathways in the methylation cycle before supporting the folate cycle. It's always best to work with a practitioner that is familiar with methylation. You can check these sources for doctors in your area: MTHFRSupport, MTHFRease, MTHFR.net

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Dallas Eats

Last month I spent a week in Dallas, TX for a Kaizen event for work. So, the first thing I did was do some restaurant research and made a list of options. I made it to about half of the places on my list and was pretty happy with my choices as were the people that joined me.  Most of my lunches were spent at the training facility's cafeteria and wasn't really anything worth writing home about. The dinners were more fun and exciting.

The Blue Fish

The Blue Fish is a fancy (aka expensive) seafood place with very dim lighting that I pretty much spent all my per diem on for the day. It was one of the places I was looking most forward to. I went with the pan seared Chilean sea bass, topped with balsamic soy vinaigrette and served with shiitake mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus, bell peppers and rice. It was a nice light and healthy meal but not worth the expensive prices in my opinion.
  Tempura Tower Chilean Sea Bass

Goji Cafe

Goji Cafe is advertised as "Healthy Asian Food". What makes it healthy? It's 100% vegan! I've been to vegan restaurants before but this was the first Asian Vegan I've been to and was pleasantly surprised with how good it was, especially the spring rolls. They have a great sampler option on their menu with 6 sets of samplers or the option of creating your own sampler with any 2 entrees and 1 appetizer from any of the sets of samplers. I chose that option and got the Salt n Pepper "Pork" Ribs, Kung Pow! Tofu and the Spicy Dumplings. Goji Cafe - Vegan Asian Sampler

Koryo Kalbi

Koryo Kalbi is a Korean BBQ restaurant located in Dallas' Koreatown. It is one of the restaurants that was not on my list but came across it in some restaurant research I did while in Dallas. Texas is known for its BBQ and I couldn't go to Texas without trying some BBQ though I'm not sure they are very well known for their Korean BBQ. I do kind of regret not checking out any American BBQ places while there. I read reviews saying people drive hours just to eat here so I figured it must be good and it definitely was.  I love all the different side dishes they bring out. There's a little something for everyone. I went with the pork belly and they cook your meat of choice on the gas grill in the center of the table along with some onion and mushrooms. It was my favorite meal during the trip.
Plate of Korean Side Dishes Korean BBQ

Pasand Indian Cuisine

This was my last meal in Dallas on the way to the airport. Pasand was your typical Indian fare. They had a buffet set up with just about everything though I couldn't tell you what any of it was. I tried a little of almost everything.
Pasand Indian Buffet

The only other restaurant worth mentioning was Andalous Mediterranean Grill. It was kind of subway style looking. They had tons of different dishes and you had the option of creating your own platter from the various dishes on display almost like a buffet but you only got 4 or 5 options and they served it for you. They had 4 different types of hummus including a spinach hummus which I'm going to have to try making myself one of these days. I got a kabob combo that came with 3 different meats and the lamb was definitely the best of the three and if I went back would just get lamb and skip the beef and chicken. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures of the food here but recommend it.

Another thing to note about Dallas. A coffee capital it is not. It's difficult to find a coffee shop there besides Starbucks and even those are far and few between. Java Me Up was the closest option besides Starbucks and we drove 8 miles out of the way for it. It was nice that they had a lot of non-dairy milk options. I tried rice milk one morning and coconut milk another morning and it wasn't bad but I still prefer my Seattle coffee. I also found it odd that they didn't have any branding on their cups. They were plane white cups with a cup holder with Claritin advertising on it. It looked like something you'd get at a gas station. It was better than Starbucks but not sure if it was worth driving 8 miles for.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Hummus Recipe

Hummus Recipe I've wanted to make hummus for some time but kept putting it off and putting it off and I have no idea why. It's so easy to make and once I made it, I was hooked and have made it at least half a dozen times already this year. I first made it to snack on during the Superbowl, serving it with carrot and celery sticks. I've made a few different variations of it and like experimenting.  I had a tasty spinach hummus at Andalous Mediterranean Grill in Texas last month and am looking forward to adding some spinach to my next batch.

I've tried both a food process and a blender to make the hummus and found the hummus to be a bit creamier with the blender and is my preference.  Some people go through the trouble of peeling all the beans to make it even smoother but I don't have the patience for that and don't think it would make that big of a difference.

Below is the recipe I've used the last couple of times I've made it and it has gotten rave reviews from people, including Mark, who claimed to not like hummus before he tried mine. You can alter the amount of garlic and spice to suit your tastes. I prefer a garlicy hummus and usually use 3 garlic cloves.

Recipe: Gapey's Grub Hummus

Yield: approximately 2.5 cups
Total time: 10 minutes

1/4 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 can garbanzo beans
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
juice of one lemon, approx. 2 tbsp
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

toasted pine nuts
dash of paprika
whole garbanzo beans

1. Drain beans, saving liquid for possible use.
2. Combine all ingredients except garnishes in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, adding a tbsp or more of saved liquid or water to thin.
3. Garnish with toasted pine nuts. paprika and/or garbanzo beans.
4. Serve with sticks of carrots and celery or pita bread or pita chips.
Hummus Ingredients Hummus in the Making

Saturday, March 22, 2014

65.7 Degree Sous Vide Eggs

The first thing I decided to make when I got my Sansaire Sous Vide machine is eggs. Seemed like the easiest thing you can make with a sous vide machine. But there's really a lot of different ways to cook eggs in a sous vide machine. Not only does the temperature make a difference but the length of time does as well.

I was kind of hoping for a poached egg type of egg where the whites are fairly firm and the yolk is runny but I didn't quite get that. Instead the whites were just a little more runny than my liking but were white and cooked through and mostly held their shape but the yolk was not runny as I had hoped.

I later came across a post on Serious Eats that has lots of pictures of eggs cooked at different temperatures and different times that I wish I had looked at before making mine. But then I found a youtube post from Jeanette's Healthy Living who cooked the eggs at 63 degrees for 45 mins that came out perfectly poached. I might have to try that.

It definitely requires some experimenting. I picked up one of these machines from a Kickstarter for $199 and you can have one at the same price but they are currently sold out but will be making more. If you join their newsletter you will be notified when they have more available.

Breakfast with 65.7 Degree Sous Vide Eggs

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Maple Pickled Pears

Maple Pickled PearsThis was a recipe from Herbivoracious' desserts section. It was difficult to find a dessert that was both gluten free and sugar free. This was the only one. I thought it would make a great snack for the big NFC Championship game. It was a very stressful game but the Seahawks squeaked by with a win over the San Francisco 49ers which led to a Superbowl win.

I paired the pears up with Seaside Cheese Co English cheddar, Uniekaas gouda arrano, Simple & Crisp dried oranges and Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisp crackers. They all went well together with the maple and cider vinegar soaked pears. I have to admit Bosc pears aren't my favorite pear. They are a grainier pear but probably hold up better and don't get too mushy so I thought they worked pretty well for this recipe and they didn't seem as grainy.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

RTC Campus Eats Food Trucks

When: Every Thursday 11:00am - 1:30pm
Where: RTC ATT Campus - 16221 NE 72nd Way, Redmond, WA
Schedule: ATT Campus Eats on Twitter & Facebook

If you're looking for food trucks on the East side you must check out the Redmond Town Center. It all started with a United Way food truck fundraiser and it must have been such a hit that they decided to have food trucks come out every Thursday. There are usually two different trucks to choose from. I used to be afraid of eating food out of trucks but there are actually some pretty awesome food trucks around and they are nothing to be afraid of. They've got some pretty amazing, restaurant quality food. Unfortunately I usually work from home on Thursdays so I miss out on the food trucks but occasionally I am in the office and am always sure to check out the trucks when I am. You'll find them in between ATT's RTC1 and 3 office buildings. You can find out who will be coming by following RTC Campus Eats on twitter or facebook. They will post the day before, the day of or sometimes not at all so you may need to risk it and just show up to see who will be there. The trucks have been coming for several months now and I've checked them out twice.

Papa Bois

My first visit to RTC Campus Eats was last November when I was surprised to find three trucks to choose from. Sweet and Savory Pie, Athena's Gyros and Papa Bois.  I was going to try Sweet and Savory Pies gluten free pie but unfortunately they were sold out by the time I went so I decided to go with Papa Bois jerk chicken though it wasn't gluten free but it was delicious. The chicken was tender and spicy and the bread was toasted perfectly, just a little black which some people may call burnt but it's just the way I like it. I got a green papaya salad to go with it. The salad was spicier than expected but I like spicy so it was good. It also had a bit of sweetness. It complemented the sandwich well. Papa Bois Food Truck Caribbean Jerk Chicken

 Sweet and Savory Pie

My second visit to RTC Campus Eats had Sweet and Savory Pie back and a first time visitor, the new Lumpia World truck. As much as I love lumpia, I went down early to make sure I got there in time to try the gluten free broccoli cheddar pie before they sold out. The crust was surprisingly good for a gluten free crust. I'm not sure what flours they use in it but I emailed them in hopes they will share the info. The filling was much thicker than I had expected and made no mess at all. I'm used to the Marie Callenders type pies which are more like a stew consistency. My only complaint is that it needed salt which I happen to keep at my desk. The pie is a little small so probably should have gotten another item off the menu. They have sweet pies including a gluten free ones, a couple of sides and Full Tilt ice cream.

Sweet and Savory Pie Truck Broccoli Cheddar Pie