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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Other Nine Months at Rainier Beach Urban Farm - Aquaponics 101

We went on another outing with The Other Nine Months group. We had to go a little futher for this one but it was the same day as the Flower & Garden Show, which wasn't too far from Rainier Beach Urban Farm. I'll be posting about the show a little later.

I always thought aquaponics and hydroponics were the same thing but it's really not so I learned about the differences during this aquaponics tour.

Hydroponics is growing plants in water and using mineral nutrient solutions added to water to help the plants grow.

Aquaponics is growing plants in water without the use of chemicals. In Aquaponics there are fish and worms involved to create the necessary nutrients for the plants.

They aquaponics system at Rainier Beach Urban Farm is in its infancy and they have big plans to expand the system. They are using a 3 container system. The first container has the fish. They have it stocked with tilapia and goldfish. Most people use an edible fish like Trout, Largemouth Bass, Blue Gill, and Catfish for aquaponics but you can use just about any fish you want. The water from the fish tank drains into another tub filled with rocks and worms and will also be used to grow strawberries which we got to plant some of ourselves. The rock bin then drains into a third bin filled with water and plants floating on top. The water keeps recirculating through these 3 tubs at a pretty fast speed, about every 20 minutes.

Seth Connell of Green Horizon Business Solutions and Anthony Reyes from Seattle Tilth did a great job explaining how the whole system works.

Aquaponics System Plant Bed Strawberry Planting Strawberry Bed Rainier Beach Urban Farm

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Other Nine Months at The Herbfarm

Since moving to my new house with a huge garden and chickens, I've joined Sno-Valley Tilth and lots of homesteading type facebook groups which allows me to hear about all kinds of interesting events happening around the area. One of the groups I heard about through tilth is a new group called The Other Nine Months and they are dedicated to sharing information about growing food in the Fall/Winter months. I believe this was their second event. We probably would have attended their first event had we heard about it.

I'm a big fan of The Herbfarm so was excited at the opportunity to visit their 5 acre farm in Redmond. I've not only eaten there a couple of times but I've also helped in their local vineyard, did a project on The Herbfarm Cookbook, received ozette potato seeds from herbguy, which I've been saving and replanting every year, and last year got a Latah tomato start which I saved seeds from that I plan on planting this year. You would think I'm obsessed. I just like what they are doing there. It's not just a restaurant, they do a lot of things to involve the community and I like that they have an ever changing menu with various themes to feature local ingredients.

Last Saturday, we arrived at the farm with about 20 other people from The Other Nine Months group and met with Bill Vingelen, the head farmer for The Herbfarm. He gave us a tour of the farm and their newest addition of a huge greenhouse. We learned quite a bit from the event and got some good tips on what to do and not do. He also teased us with some dried Pellegrini heirloom beans that you can only get on the Herbfarm website. I've already put in my order for some as if I don't already have enough beans to plant this year. What's one more variety? Have you heard of the Green Zebra tomato? I've been hearing a lot about it recently though it didn't make the cut for this year but it's definitely on my list for next year. It so happens that Tom Wagner from Everett, WA is who we have to thank for this tomato. He runs trials of new varieties of tomatoes at The Herbfarm every year.

In addition to plants at the farm, they also have a few animals. We got to see the chickens and one of the two cats, named Chicamu. They tried ducks at one point but they were very messy so it appears they got rid of them. Here are some of the important lessons learned at the event:
  • PVC is a very common frame for hoop houses but he warned against using them because they deteriorate the plastic too quickly. Instead, they use a metal frame which lasts much longer and is more sturdy too. 
  • For winter gardening in a hoop/greenhouse, transplant existing plants to the greenhouse in the Fall rather than starting them from seed. That was the mistake I made last year. I attempted to start seeds in the greenhouse in Fall (kale, lettuce, arugula). That did not go well and the only thing still alive is the arugula and it's very slow growing. 
  • He prefers the plastic coverings for hoop houses rather than the fabric kind. He's been using a plastic covering with slits in the sides to allow for some airflow within the greenhouse, something I hadn't seen before.
  • He recommended always sprouting beans and peas before planting in the ground, a tip I will definitely use when the time comes.
  • He gave us a list of crops that do well in the cold weather which will come in handy.
Frost Hardy (transplant by July 1): brussels sprouts, burdock root, beets, cabbage, celery root, mashua-tuberous nasturium, leeks, oca-tuberous oxalis, rutabaga, salsify-scornzonera, yacon, winter thyme, winter savory.
Semi-Frost Hardy (tunneling recommended when temps dip below 20 degrees): carrots, broccoli cauliflower, greens (arugula, chard, cress, kale, lettuce, mache, mustard, raddicchio, spinach), herbs (chervil, parsley, rosemary, sage), radishes, turnips.

I plan on doing a hoop house over my bed of greens in the winter to prolong the growing season as well as get some other stuff growing in the greenhouse earlier in the season so they are well established before it gets too cold.

The Farm Big Greenhouse Greenhouse Starts Pea Shoots Farmer Bill V Containers Fuzzy Cat The Herbfarm Chickens

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Herbivoracious Cookbook Review

Herbivoracious Cookbook Project
Herbivoracious is a vegetarian cookbook authored by Michael Natkin. I've been following him on social media and his blog before this cookbook came out and even tested out the otsu noodles recipe. I did a little video to go along with each of my blog posts for this project, something I hadn't done in any of my previous cookbook projects. For my projects I take at least one recipe from each of the sections, photograph it and blog about it.

Herbivoracious is filled with beautiful photography though not all recipes include photos. Michael was nice enough to put photos up on his blog for all the recipes in the cookbook that didn't include them so if you really want to know what the dish looks like before you make it, you can look it up on his Missing Images blog post. A lot of his recipes can also be found on his blog but there may be some variations to what was printed in the cookbook.

I can't really think of much I didn't like about this cookook. It was well written and put together and there are some recipes I tried that I keep going back to. I've made the beet tartare recipe several times and is one that I will continue to make over and over again.


  • recipes are easily noted if they are vegan and/or gluten free
  • serving size and amount of time noted on each recipe
  • each recipe has a few paragraphs of commentary with a description, tips, history and/or side dish recommendations
  • sample menu plans (I personally didn't use this but some people may find it helpful)
  • sections for ingredient and cooking equipment notes
  • pages of notes scattered throughout the cookbook printed in maroon color such as knives, salt, flavor profiles from different countries, dried herb and spice storage and many more


  • I would like to see more gluten free recipes
  • I found some of the recipes took longer than indicated on the recipe
Below are the recipes I tried.

appetizers and small dishes 
     smoked asparagus and panko crusted eggs
     aloo tiki with banana raita
     pozole rojo de frijole
     beet tartare and gluten free rosemary mayo toast
main-courses sandwiches and tacos
     mushroom tacos with pear slaw
main-courses pasta and noodle dishes
     sicilian spaghetti with pan-roasted cauliflower
main courses from the stovetop
     quinoa cakes
main courses from the oven
     chermoula-stuffed eggplant
side dishes
     brussels sprout and apple hash
     maple pickled pears
     huevos ahogados

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Wreath Treat for Chickens Recipe

Buff Treats 
This is a recipe I made for my chickens for Christmas. I have been hanging it up for them every day while they are free ranging and bring it in at night to keep the rats away from it. It's a quick and easy recipe I found via Fresh Eggs Daily which is a great resource for any poultry keeper. At first I hung it up fairly high to make them work for their treat but decided to lower it later to make it a little easier for them and the little ones to get.

Christmas Wreath for Chickens


Cooking Spray
Unflavored Knox gelatin, 3 packets
1/2 Cup cold water
1 1/2 Cups boiling water
1 Cup coconut oil or bacon grease, melted
8 cups scratch, seeds, nuts, grains and/or dried fruit
24 fresh cranberries

  1. Spray bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Stir gelatin into a measuring cup with the cold water and set aside for 1 minute.
  3. Pour boiling water into medium sized bowl and whisk in the gelatin.
  4. Add 8 cups of scratch, seeds, nuts, grains and/or dried fruit to a large bowl. I used 7 cups scratch, handful of mixed dried fruit (raisins, cherries, cranberries) and a little farro.
  5. Add melted oil and gelatin to the bowl of seed mixture and mix well.
  6. Place 3 cranberries in a row in each crease of the bundt pan.
  7. Carefully add the mixture to the bundt pan and press to compact.
  8. Place the bundt pan in the fridge overnight.
  9. Remove from fridge and turn pan over onto a cutting board and tap lightly.
  10. Tie ribbon around the bundt pan and hang for your chickens to enjoy.
Chicken Treat

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Huevos Ahogados en Salsa Verde

TomatillosSalsa Verde This is the last recipe for my Herbivoracious Cookbook project. It came from the breakfast section as one of the only gluten free recipes in this section. In Spanish, huevos means eggs and ahogados means drowned. I had to look up that last one. So I guess in English this would be eggs drowned in green salsa.

Instead of going the easy route and using store bought green salsa I decided to make my own. Luckily I was able to find some tomatillos at Fred Meyer though I doubt they are local. They aren't in season so I couldn't be too picky.

My salsa ended up being a little more spicy than I would have liked. I used two jalapenos but they were really big ones so one probably would have been enough. I scraped out most of the seeds and ribs which helps lessen the spiciness. I ended up overcooking the eggs a bit so the yolks weren't runny. It's a little difficult to get the egg just right. My eggs ended up sinking down into the salsa so the eggs aren't as pretty looking in the finished photo as what was in the cookbook. Will have to try this one again with a little less heat and try to get the eggs cooked a little better. Instead of cooking the eggs in the salsa I might try making the poached eggs in my sous vide machine.

Recipe: Salsa Verde

Yield: 2 servings
Total Time: 30 minutes
  • 1.5 lbs tomatillos
  • 1 1-2 jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 lime
  • 1 clove of garlic, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Handful of cilantro

  1. Cut tomatillos in half and pulse in blender until smooth
  2. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth
  3. Add mixture to a saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes or until desired consistency
  4. Serve hot or cold

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Honey Apple Plum Butter

Brooks Plums 
My Brooks plum tree produced tons of plums last year and left me with more than I knew what to do with. I ended up making plum smoothies for breakfast, freezing some, giving some away, selling some to the nearby farm stand and made two batches of plum butter. My cardamom plum butter recipe is also on my blog.

For this recipe I wanted to try using a slow cooker as I've seen many use this method for making butters but I have to admit, I do not prefer this method. Even after 8 hours in the slow cooker the butter seemed as thin as when I put it in. I was running out of day light and decided to scrap that method and finished it off on the stove top which took another couple hours to finally thicken to my desired consistency. So I don't think I'll be using that method again in the future.

Fruit butter can be used for a lot of things whether it's spread on toast, slathered on pancakes, spread on your sandwich,  baked in cookies or as I've done most recently, spread on Lesley Stowe Raincoast Crisp crackers with cheese.  I got this package of cranberry hazelnut crisps from IFBC this year and they are some of my favorite crackers. They are indeed crispy and are perfect topped with fruit and cheese. They even make a few "wheat free" crackers made with oat flour. 

I created a video this time showing each step of the process including the canning of the plum butter.

Recipe: Honey Apple Plum Butter

Yield: approximately 8 pint size jars
Total Time: approximately 3 hours

  • 90 oz apple/plum purée
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground clove
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1 orange, zest & juice
  • 1 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 orange, zest & juice

  1. Cut plums in half and remove seeds. Peel and core apples. Add plums and apples to blender in batches and blend until you have 90 oz of purée, adding water if needed
  2. Add all ingredients to a bowl, stir and refrigerate for a couple hours or overnight to allow flavors to meld.
  3. Taste the mixture and add more honey, spices and/or plums if you'd like.
  4. Pour the pixture into a large sauce pan and bring to a gentle boil and then reduce to a simmer. Or heat on low in a slow cooker for hours and hours and hours. If it doesn't thicken as quickly as you'd like, transfer to a sauce pan to thicken.
  5. Stir the mixture often and more frequently as it gets thicker. After about an hour you may use an immersion blender to make it more smooth
  6. Continue cooking for another hour or longer or until desired consistency. You can put a bit on a plate and refrigerate a few minutes to check consistency as it does thicken more when cool.
  7. Store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for longer storage.
  8. My batch ended up making about 8 pint sized jarss of butter. You may get more or less depending on how thick you make it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gregarious Cellars 2012 Release Party

I just discovered Gregarious Cellars during a trip to Pine Creek Nursery in Monroe, where they do tastings on the weekends. Pine Creek Nursery also does "Taste from the Garden" dinners during the summer and Gregarious Cellars is always there to pair their wines with the four course meal. We attended three of the dinners this year and got to try different wines each time. The dinners are only $40 per person and come with a complimentary glass of wine. Any additional glasses are extra.

Gregarious Cellars hasn't been around for very long but word of mouth is getting out there and their business has been steadily growing over the past couple of years. They've doubled their wine production in the last year. The wines are very impressive for such a young winery and it's no surprise that they have grown so much every year.

Two of their wines deserve special mention because they are wines I typically don't care for and actually ended up buying bottles of them.
  • 2011 Roussanne: A white wine that we actually preferred served at room temperature. Mark and I are not normally white wine drinkers though we drink it on occasion and we were talked into trying it at the first "Taste from the Garden" dinners we went to. It seemed very different from any white wine we've had before. It didn't seem to have as much acid. We liked it so much that we bought a bottle to bring home with us for $15. Before I move on to the 2nd one I also had to mention that the 2011 Syrah is fabulous. It is very peppery, just the way I like it. Unfortunately they are sold out of it and their 2012 doesn't have the same amount of pepper but they promise that with age that peppery taste I like will be there.
  • 2011 Merlot: If you know me, you know Merlot is probably my least favorite red. I don't like the dry chalky coating most of them leave in your mouth.  I tried Gregarious' 2011 Merlot during the release party paired with mushroom cream cheese puffs and wouldn't you know it, it was my favorite wine of the whole release party. They have very limited quantities so if you want a bottle you better hurry on down to Pine Creek and get one because as of last Friday they only had a case and a half left and I went home with a bottle for $25. I think I will store it for a year or so and see if it gets better with age.
They had a 2012 release party at Pine Creek Nursery where they served 6 different wine and food pairings all for free! My favorite bite was probably the dark chocolate brownie and as mentioned before. the 2011 Merlot was my favorite wine. The best food and wine pairing however probably went to the 2012 Cab Franc with Tuscan Bean Soup. We had the Cab Franc again at the last "Taste from the Garden". It was recommended as a good pairing for the entree which was pork tenderloin, butternut squash and potatoes and it was a good pairing indeed. It might be my next bottle of wine purchase.

There was a 2012 Red Blend that was paired with a sausage pizza that was pretty good too. The blend was actually created by a guy named Mike at one of their blending parties. They had a little contest to see who could come up with the best blend and he ended up winning. They may be doing another blending party next year so I'm going to have to keep my eye out for that, it sounds like a lot of fun.

Rosato and Hemplars Sausage
2013 Rosato and Hemplar's Sausage

Merlot with Mushroom Cream Cheese Puffs
2011 Merlot and Mushroom Cream Cheese Puffs

Cab Franc with Tuscan Bean Soup Mike's Red Blend with Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza 
Left: 2012 Cabernet Franc and Tuscan Bean Soup  Right: 2012 Red Blend and Spicy Italian Sausage Pizza

Cab Sauvignon with Hearty Beef Stew
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon and Hearty Beef Stew

Gregarious Cellars Release Party

Be sure to follow Gregarious Cellars and Pine Creek Nursery on Facebook to find out about upcoming events.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Garden Carrot Soup

Garden Carrot Soup Recipe I've got a bunch of carrots in my garden that are over due for picking and thought a soup would be a good way to use them up. I coincidentally got an email from Blendtec today with a carrot soup recipe and was my inspiration for this recipe.

I normally make my own broths and stocks but I received a box of Aneto chicken broth from the swag suite at the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC) so thought it would be perfect for this recipe. Aneto is all natural and doesn't contain any MSG or unrecognizable, hard to pronounce ingredients like many others do. Ingredient list only contains water, chicken, onion, carrot, leek, cabbage, celery and marine salt. This is stuff I would use to make my own broth and tastes just as good. Another thing I got from Aneto on the first night of IFBC is a nice personalized apron with my blog name on it.
Aneto Broth Aneto Self Portrait
Another item I picked up at IFBC was one of my favorite olive oils, California Olive Ranch. It's my go to olive oil and almost always have a bottle of it on hand. California Olive Ranch was at IFBC in 2013 too and did an olive oil tasting that opened my eyes to what makes a good and a bad olive oil and how to taste the difference. Olive oils don't age very well so it's important to get the freshest bottles you can and store them in a dark cool place. You always know what you're getting with California Olive Ranch because they put the olive harvest date right on the bottle so you know how fresh it is. I wish all olive oils had dates like that. It's just something to look out for when you're olive oil shopping. Most olive oils are imported from Italy so it's nice to know there is a good olive oil made right here in the US with olives grown in California.
Chopped Veg Blendtec

Recipe: Garden Carrot Soup

Yield: 6 Cups
Total Time: approximately 1.5 hours

  • 4 cups peeled carrots, chopped
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary, chopped
  • 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 box Aneto chicken broth or 4 cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp thyme, dried
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp celery seed
  1. Preheat oven to 425ᵒF.
  2. Add chopped carrots, apple, onion and rosemary to a 9x13 baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Bake until carrots are tender, approximately 45 minutes.
  4. Heat broth in a saucepan and add cooked vegetables, thyme, salt, pepper and celery seed. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Pour half or less of mixture into a blender jar and blend until smooth. Empty into another container and blend the remaining mixture in one or more batches.
  6. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if needed.
  7. Sereve, topped with a fresh herb garnish of your choice.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sugar Free Honey Cardamom Plum Butter

Backyard Brooks Plums
It's my first fall in the new house and my first experience with a plum tree. If you don't know about plum trees, the fruit seems to all ripen at one time or at least within a week or two and it's that time with my tree. I give the ones that fall off and not usable to my chickens. They love them. The rest I've been using in as many ways as I can. I even sold 10 lbs of them to a farm stand and they said they were sold as soon as they put them out. I also like putting them in my morning shake or just eating them fresh off the tree. I decided to try making a fruit butter and used two different recipes and liked this honey cardamom version the best.

I did some searching for a sugar free plum butter recipes and found one on hitchhikingtoheaven.com that looked good. I made a few changes to the measurements and added more plums because I thought it was a little too sweet. It might also depend on the type of plum you have so be sure to taste it before cooking and adjust anything you feel needs adjusting. I didn't have cardamom pods so substituted cardamom powder instead. I also used vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean.

Jarred Cardamam Plum Butter

Recipe: Honey Cardamom Plum Butter

Yield: approximately 60oz
Total Time: approximately 3 hours

  • 8 cups of plum pulp (I used 30 brooks plums)
  • 1 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tbsp Grand Marnier
  • 2 tbsp grated orange zest (used zest from one orange)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1.5 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Cut plums in half and remove seed. Add to a blender and puree. You may need to do in two batches.
  2. Add all ingredients except bay leaf to a bowl and refrigerate over night to allow flavors to meld.
  3. Taste the mixture and add more honey, spices and/or plums if you'd like.
  4. Pour the pixture into a large sauce pan, add bay leaf and cinnamon stick to the mixture and bring to a gentle boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Stir the mixture often and more frequently as it gets thicker. After about an hour you may use an immersion blender to make it more smooth (be sure to remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf if you choose to do this step)
  6. Continue cooking for another hour or longer or until desired consistency. You can put a bit on a plate and refrigerate a few minutes to check consistency as it does thicken more when cool.
  7. Store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes for longer storage.
  8. My batch ended up making about 60 oz of plum butter.
Making Plum Butter

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

IFBC 2014 or Not

IFBC 2014 Gift Suite 
I signed up for IFBC 2014 right after the 2013 conference was over, excited that it was again going to be in Seattle. It was two days before the opening reception and I was getting excited, especially since at the last minute I got off the waiting list for the very limited space excursion at Sur La Table. It was shaping up to be a fun and exciting weekend of meeting lots of new bloggers, getting to sample tons of delicious food and learning new things from a wide variety of speakers. I couldn't wait!

In one day my excitement turned to feeling like I was going to die and had to cancel my spot for the excursion and cancel my dinner reservation with Jean Layton from glutenfreedoctor.com. :( I came down with some kind of stomach issue Wednesday night that had me bedridden and unable to eat for several days and am finally starting to feel better, a week later. The jury is still out on what my problem was. I visited the walk in clinic twice and got 2 bags of fluids during my second visit which made me feel a little better. They took blood tests and UA tests all of which didn't really tell them much of anything. I'm still waiting for the stool test results to come back in hopes it may show something but since I'm starting to feel better it may not really matter. At least I can eat now.

It wasn't a total loss though I did manage to pick myself up and drive an hour to the opening reception which was maybe not such a good idea given my condition. I wasn't having any sinus issues so don't think I had anything contagious but I had very little energy at that point and unable to eat. I had planned on getting cheaper parking at the Warwick but didn't think I could walk the couple blocks there and back and since I hadn't planned on staying for more than an hour I just parked at the Westin where the conference was being held.

I dragged myself from the car to the reception hall where there was a line of people waiting to get in for the food, but food was the last thing I was thinking about other than wishing I could have it. Unfortunately though, I had to walk by it to get to the gift suite which is what I was really there for. Call me selfish but I paid for the conference and couldn't eat anything and didn't have the energy to do much socializing and I wanted to get something for what I paid for.

IFBC 2014 SwagThe gift suite was in a MUCH bigger room than previous years and seemingly more organized unless I was too late and missed all the frantic pushing and shoving. Tables were lined up all around the outside of the room and a smaller circle of tables in the middle of the room with more goodies. It appeared some things had already run out before I got there though I didn't think I was that late. I missed out on getting to try some of Sahale Snacks new flavors and was the sponsor I was most looking forward to getting goodies from. I heard people were grabbing their stuff by the handfuls but others said there was a rep handing them out one per person. Maybe that changed when they saw people were taking too many. Anyway, it's a great company with a great product and I had such a good time with them last year touring the Sahale Snack factory.

I didn't leave without meeting at least a couple of new people though. The two people in front of me in the gift suite line were both from the same area as I am in the Snohomish Valley and I got their cards. I had new moo cards all ready to go for the conference too and forgot them at home so had to hand out some older non-food ones I had with me. Oh well, at least I had something to give out. Kristi Kaiser from Inspiration Kitchen is also a food photographer and has some great looking recipes with beautiful photography to go with them on her site. I also met Kristi Rimkus from Mother Rimmy's Cooking Light Done Right who also has a blog filled with good looking healthy recipes and some great pictures too. It was nice to get to meet them briefly and hope to stay in contact with them.

I was able to attend the conference virtually through social media but it just wasn't the same and watching all the awesome looking food I was missing out on and that amazing Sur La Table gift bag people got was a little rough but I'm glad everyone had fun and hope someone lucky person was able to take my place at Sur La Table. Hopefully next year I'll actually get to go for more than an hour.