Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Monday, March 24, 2008

First Planting

Pin It The freshly de-strawberried vegetable bed has some new occupants. Today I planted snap peas, 2 types of lettuce, broccoli, and cilantro seeds.

I've have good luck with everything but the lettuce. The slugs usually devour the lettuce before humans even have a chance. Other friends are able to grow it, so I'm trying again. I've never grown it from seed, but this year I'm hoping to plant it every 10 days (or so) so it's ready at staggered times. I'm doing the same with the peas, broccoli, and cilantro. Hopefully that will work out!

I also bought three more peonies and stuck them in the front gardens. I have a hard time resisting peonies, even though I seem to have trouble getting them to bloom. I'm hoping they're on a three year cycle or something...and that this will be the year the "older" ones bloom. We had beautiful peonies at our rental home. I hope I can get them going here. They are one of my favorite cut flowers.

Speaking of cut flowers, I snipped a few daffodils and a hyacinth today to put in a vase. They are so cheery on my kitchen counter! I love these double daffodils (Golden Ducat), though the blossoms are so heavy they droop to the ground in the garden.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Pin It Mid-March thru mid-April is one of my favorite times in McMinnville. While it's still the rainy season, we are surprised with days like today: a bit of sunshine and warmth, blue skies, and lots of bulbs and fruit trees in bloom.

The first thing I did this morning was peek out the window to see what the weather was like. After proclaiming it a "beauty day," I quickly finished some morning laundry, had breakfast, showered and was in the yard for the rest of the day. If you look at my Gardening To-Do List, you'll see I crossed a few things off! That felt great!

I am most excited to see how this strawberry tower/pot will do. I'm envisioning the strawberries filling out, spilling over, and cascading down. I really wish I had more room for strawberries. Last year I planted them in this sideyard vegetable bed. I was hoping they'd simply line the bed, and cascade down over the edge. My head must've been in dream-land, because I know that strawberries will spread into any available soil. This vegetable bed was about 25% full of strawberries this morning. If I'd let them go any longer I wouldn't have had room for the veggies. So, after I filled the tiered pot thingy, I pulled the rest of them out. That was really hard to do. I talked to some neighbors and friends, and thankfully our friend, Martha, was just about to buy some strawberry plants. They now have a new home!

This is the second year for the spring bulbs. Though the daffodils and tulips are starting to multiply, I still have flower envy when I see all the magnificent clumps of daffodils around. It makes me wonder if I should have planted them in small groups at first...or are these clumps I see just simply more established, multiplying for many years (as opposed to my one year)? Still, I'm happy to see two, when there once was one.

Our flowering plums are in full bloom. As I was sitting in the swing beneath them, I noticed some bees zooming around from blossom to blossom. Though the trees are ornamental, they do produce plums every few years or so. Last year was a pretty good year for them. I'm hoping this year will be as well.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Gardening Resolution

Pin It Sadly, most of the things on here are from last summer/fall. I'd like to take care of 2 things a week from this list. So, that's what my Spring Gardening Resolution is! I'll cross out the task and date it once it's completed...just so I (and you!) can see how I'm doing.

Gardening To-Do List

Clean out gardening bench area. 5/15/08
Create a fence/barrior to hide the mess.

Clean the chair covers. 5/15/09 (Hosed them off, and then put them in the washing machine!)

Strengthen the 3 trellis sections with galvanized wire. 3/18/08

Add wire to support the clematis by the dining room window. 3/18/08

butterfly bushes

Remove stepping stones by back patio.

Put up a sturdier wire/wood trellis for the clematis by the shed.

Break down wooden pallet.

Create drip irrigation systems:
upper side patio
front porch/window/garage

Fertilize lawns. 5/15/08

1 purple flower
2 camellias
1 coral bell
1 New Zealand flax (4/13/08-Gave it away at the gardening swap)
2 clematis by rhodies 4/13/08
9 dahlias 3/22/08
12 gladioli 3/22/08
3 lilies 3/22/08

Add some aluminum sulfate to the two blue hydrangeas (by shed).

Repair back lawn.

Edge lawns.

Set into the ground 7 stepping stones in the north side yard.

Support the Mexican Orange bush so it’s not flopping. 4/6/08

Put bird netting along side yard trellis. Secure to keep cats out. 4/13/08

Plant more bulbs in fall: front & back yards.
4/13/08: Added about 20 more daffodils to the front.

Make a strawberry tower out of large pot, tiered baskets. 3/22/08

Dig out strawberries and move to their new home. 3/22/08

Figure out the property line along the south end of the yard. 5/14/08 (My measurements had been off by a foot. I just learned that the fence on the north side was built about one foot south of the property line. Now I know why I was off by a foot on the other side!)

Dig up the sorrel. 4/12/08

Put up a new retaining wall along the south end of the yard.

Move the fence back 3-4 3 feet along the south end of the yard.

Move the three astilbe plants to a sunnier (but not too sunny) spot. 4/12/08


Weed some more.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Local McMinnville, Oregon Restaurants (part 2)

Pin It For a small town, we are lucky to have so many great local restaurants. Maybe it's the wine industry that gets them started. But we don't have that many tourists to keep them afloat year round (do we??). Anytime we go out to dinner, we are likely to run into friends, acquaintances, or Linfield students we know. It's one of the things I love about small town restaurants.

So, where else do we go on a regular basis?

Brew Pub/Variety Menu: Golden Valley. It's the Cheers of McMinnville. It's where everybody knows your name. Well, at least the folks at one of the pieced together long tables around 5:00 on Fridays. The service isn't always the best, but once you get over that, you'll probably come back. First off, the beer. My husband is a home-brewer and a chemist, so he really likes a good beer. If you wanted a beer on a Friday night, this is where he'd take you, so I suppose it has pretty good beer. They do brew their own on-site. That's all I can say, since I don't care for beer at all. They do have a great strawberry-lemonade. One of these days I'll ask for a shot of vodka in it. Then it would be even better... The food: Actually the food is quite good. They do have standard pub food, but the menu goes beyond that. They are probably the best place in town for a steak (they locally raise their own beef for the restaurant). My favorites are the Tuscan Chicken sandwich (though I love pesto, it really was a better sandwich before they added the pesto to it...I suppose they'd make it the "old" way if I asked) and the Cajun Chicken Sandwich (just the right balance of spiciness/flavor to it).

Comfort Foods: Orchards Bistro has been in business for a few years. It seems like it got a slow start, as there were many open tables for the first year or so. While all the other 3rd Street restaurants were hopping, I kept wondering why people were overlooking this one. Thankfully, business seems to have picked up, and I hope they will be around for quite some time. It's a small restaurant, sharing space with Honest Chocolates. Until recently it was just the owners preparing food and waiting tables. I noticed a new waiter recently, and hope that is a sign they're doing well! Anyway...back to the food...hands-down the best macaroni and cheese ever. I know that sounds simple, but this baked bowl of blended cheeses and macaroni will win you over. It is simply scrumptious. Also highly recommended are the Chicken Pot Pie and the Chicken Italian Delight.

BBQ: Tucked away behind the Crescent Cafe off of 2nd Street your nose will easily find Haagenson's Catering & Barbeque aka The Ribslayer. (This is the same guy who brings his smoker out to the Farmer's Market each summer.) It's an easy place for the eye to miss (his front entrance is next to the back entrance of most businesses) but you can't miss the smoky BBQ aroma. My favorites: his holiday platter with smoked turkey and scalloped potatoes. We ordered this for our Christmas dinner. I figured we'd get some turkey slices and a small container of potatoes. What I didn't expect was a whole turkey (local from Carlton Farms), smoked, professionally sliced (every bit of meat off the bone...well, except for the wings & drumsticks!) and sooooo good! I took the potatoes from their container to heat them, and they filled an entire 9" x 13" baking dish. Nothing skimpy at all. A little cranberry sauce, some gravy, and a good amount of stuffing came with the meal as well. I wasn't crazy about the stuffing, but that's such a personal thing...everyone seems to have their favorite. His was sweet and savory, while I prefer a strictly savory stuffing.* Anyway, it really made Christmas dinner easy and we will definitely be back for more holiday dinners!

*Upon checking out his website, I see he now offers a few stuffing choices.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Love Arborvitae

Pin It I never thought I'd being saying those words. Arborvitae is just so....boring and ugly. Sadly, it is great at being a quick, tall, narrow, evergreen screen to hide uglier things or to provide some much needed privacy.

This past weekend our neighbors lined our fence (on their side) with at least a dozen 3-4' high arborvitae plants. I was thrilled! We live on a hill, and because their home is slightly higher than ours, we can see right into each others' homes when we are out back. We can also easily see each other. And we are all out back a lot!

Our main living areas are toward the back of our house, as is theirs, so privacy has been hard to come by. When we first moved in I planted a dwarf evergreen magnolia that will soon block our patio door from their patio door. But it only helps from a direct angle.

Last summer I rigged three sections of a tall lattice structure to the fence and planted two evergreen clematis (Clematis armandii). This should help by next year once the fast-growing clematis has a chance to take off. Sadly, one of the two plants died over the winter, and will need to be replaced. Though fast-growing, this means it will be another year before there's really good coverage.

So, when I saw them planting the arborvitae, I was thrilled. It will give us privacy without taking up even an inch of our yard. But how fast will it grow? I've read anywhere from 6"-3' per year. Man, I hope it's closer to the 3' per year!!

This reminded me of another neighbor/arborvitae story. Our former next-door neighbors planted one arborvitae front and center in their front yard. They even put a ring of rocks around it to highlight the plant. It always made me giggle. The rest of their yard looked quite nice; I just found it odd that they'd make the arborvitae the focal point!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Steak Marinade

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Last week I made four marinades from for petite sirloin steaks. One of them was simply called Steak Marinade. Tonight I defrosted the steaks, which had been frozen in the marinade. I do love these quick and easy takes about 10-15 minutes to defrost a couple steaks in a sink full of hot water.

Usually defrosting with a cold water bath is recommended for food safety, but that would be for thicker meats that are going to take some time to a whole chicken or turkey. You don't want food to be in the 40-140 degree range for more than 4 hours (the 4-4-4 rule). To cool/heat food back to food safe temperatures, food safety experts recommend that food should not be out at room temperature for more than two hours. That gives them the other two hours to chill/heat back to safe temps. Anyway...what I'm getting at, is that it is perfectly safe to use a hot water bath for a couple of steaks!

Moving on...

What I was most worried about was that this marinade would have a heavy A-1 Sauce flavoring...and I was right. A-1 is really not a sauce that I like at all. I can't describe what it is that I don't like, but I just think it's one of the worst flavorings for meat! I really don't get why it's so popular. So, while I liked this steak, I didn't love it. And it's probably not something I'll make again because there are so many other great flavors out there! But, if you're a fan of A-1 Sauce, you will probably like this.

Steak Marinade (

In a medium bowl combine:
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup steak sauce
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar salad dressing
4 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Add a couple steaks, marinate, and grill.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Local McMinnville, Oregon Restaurants

Pin It The last post about "Mexican" food in Indiana, got my mind thinking about restaurants we like. I much prefer a small local restaurant to a large chain one. However, when we're out traveling, and are in a hurry, it's so easy to go with the chains. You know what you're going to get. It may not be the best, but it certainly won't be the worst. They're predictable.

Tour books often list local places, but the reviews are kind of canned. It's hard for me to pick a restaurant from a Fodor's or Frommer's travel guide.

So, I thought I'd give my 2 cents about some of my favorite local restaurants.

Thai Food: My favorite restaurant in town is probably Thai Country. The owners are always there, and the waitstaff, while small, is quite friendly and familiar. My favorite dishes are the Pad Thai w/Chicken (hold the peanuts for me, please). It has a mild, but flavorful sauce that just hits the spot. We've tried making this dish on our own or from kits (Thai Kitchen's Pad Thai was HORRID...tasted like noodles and ketchup!), but can never quite match the flavor from a Thai restaurant. So we'll stop trying and leave it to the pros. Another favorite (and very spicy!) dish is their Spicy Chicken Basil dish. It's not on the menu, but is usually listed on a chalkboard near the cash register. It's not for the faint of heart...the longer the chicken absorbs the sauce, the spicier it gets. The basil is quickly fried, becoming a crisp garnish, which they don't skimp on. There are also plenty of vegetarian offerings at Thai Country. Located: 707 NE 3rd Street, 503-434-1300

Pizza: Hands down.....there's no place like 3rd Street Pizza! The crust is not pasty. The toppings are not too greasy. It's hand-tossed with several big air bubbles by the crust (people really seem to go for those pieces first!). They have the traditional offerings, but also have some specialty combos. My favorite is their Thai Peanut Chicken pizza. Never ever did I think I'd like chicken as a topping on pizza. This is a spicy sauce (see a trend here....??) which is flavorful, without being too peanut-y. I'd LOVE to re-create this at home, as the pizza here is pricey. In addition to great pizza, they also have fabulous salads (HUGE!), and a great sandwich selection (not your ordinary turkey and cheese). They do offer delivery, though the wait is often 45 minutes. There's a reason they're so busy!! It's often easiest to call ahead with your order whether you're eating there or taking it to go. Located: 433 NE 3rd Street, 503-434-5800

Breakfast: Wildwood Cafe or Crescent Cafe. This is a hard one. They are so different, and both SO good! I'll start with Wildwood: The decor is kitchy....egg beaters hanging from the ceiling, vintage ads and signs on the walls. The chairs and tables are 50s diner style and don't match. The kids' menu comes glued to the back cover of a well-worn children's picture book. There's nothing pretentious here. It's a great place for breakfast or lunch, though I do prefer their breakfasts (which thankfully are served anytime). My favorite: The Wildwood Toast, their version of French toast. You receive thick cuts of bread, dipped in a crunchy granola-y batter, and cooked until golden. One piece is probably all you need. They are filling! Over at Crescent Cafe, the decor is much more upscale which probably attracts more of our wine tasting tourists. The owners (at least at this point in time) will greet you, tell you all about the food, and treat you like no other small-town restaurant has ever treated you. First class service, and first class fresh, organic, & local foods. It really is an impressive place, though not stuffy. They, too, have their own version of French toast, and while very different from Wildwood's is nothing like the egg/milk batter version most of us make at home. Highly recommended. Expect a short wait at both restaurants during the breakfast rush. Location: Wildwood Cafe (319 NE Baker; corner of 3rd Street/Baker St., 503-435-1454); Crescent Cafe (526 NE 3rd Street, 503-435-2655).

And that's all for now....I'll post more another time.

Indiana "Enchiladas"

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Coming from the Southwest, Brian and I experienced culture shock when we moved to Indiana. Many things we embraced (snow, small town life), learned to tolerate (ice), or love (friends we made, rural backroads), but some things we just never took to (humidity, racism). Another thing we never took to was the "Mexican" food served in local restaurants.

At first* there were two choices: Taco Bell and Chi-Chis. My co-workers liked to get together for lunch (all you can eat buffets) or after work drinks (margaritas) at Chi-Chis. They LOVED the food; couldn't get enough of it. It was all white...everything covered with what they called "queso sauce"...something I'd never really seen in an authentic Mexican restaurant. EVERY entree was smothered with this white sauce. And they'd order extra on the side!

Now, I'll be the first to admit that even the Mexican food served in Tucson isn't always authentic. There's a lot of Tex-Mex, and Southwestern-American influenced food (chimichangas come to mind). But it's a whole heck of a lot more authentic than the Mexican food in Southern Indiana! (At least back in the 90s....)

This next dish is one my friend and coworker, Karen, made for me. She called them "Yummy Enchiladas, " and Brian and I agreed...they really were yummy. Though anything with cream cheese, whipping cream, and flour tortillas really shouldn't be called an enchilada. For many years we kept the name, "Yummy Enchiladas." Tonight however, I renamed them "Indiana Enchiladas" because they remind me of all the white-sauced "Mexican" food served in Indiana.

If you are a Mexican food snob, please re-name these so you're not even thinking of Mexican food when you eat them. They really are quite yummy, and are worth trying. Just don't think of them as Mexican food and you'll be fine!

Indiana "Enchiladas"

8 oz softened cream cheese
4 oz salsa
4 chicken breasts
12 flour tortillas
4 oz whipping cream
Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Boil & shred chicken.
Mix cream cheese & salsa. Add chicken.

Roll meat in the tortillas, and place in a greased baking dish. Pour whipping cream over the tortillas & top with cheese.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

*Later on, the town we lived in (Bloomington) got an authentic Mexican restaurant. I can't recall the name, but the owners were from Guadalajara. This was a welcome change as we really got homesick for Mexican food.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

A Bag a Day Keeps the Weeds at Bay

Pin It As the spring flowers start showing up, so do the weeds. I hate to use Round-Up, though I admit I'll spray it in the cracks of the patio, or in the rock bed by the front sidewalk. For the rest though, my plan is to fill a grocery bag each day with weeds. I'm always amazed how quickly a bag fills up...10-15 minutes tops. There's always something to pull!

My favorite weeding tool is this handy-dandy weed puller by Oxo. It feels good and sturdy in my hand as I pull even the toughest weeds. The rounded part on the bottom pushes against the ground as I pull up on the weeds, giving me better leverage. MUCH easier on these arthritic hands than a tool without that feature.

Something else I really couldn't live without is this rocking gardening stool. It's the Garden Rocker by Vertex. I found it at Lowe's for $20 a couple years ago. I keep it in the low position, though it can be raised (4 settings). It allows me to sit up on it, and rock forward (or sideways) toward the weeds or plants I'm working on. I simply plop it in one spot, and rotate around until I've pruned/weeded the area within reach. Then I move it again....LOVE this stool!! (Another use for it is to help in shelving library books. Occasionally my subbing jobs end early and the schools have me shelve books in the library to finish out my time. Most of the books are so's backbreaking to do this for more than 30 minutes! Each time I do it I think about this little gardening stool and swear that I will clean it up and toss it into the car when I go to these schools. Someday I actually will!)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spring is in the air!

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All over town the crocus are in full bloom, the daffodils are just getting going, and the early spring flowering trees (like the plum trees in our yard) are getting ready to burst with blooms.

In our yard, we've had greetings from the mini iris that Katie planted in her garden bed. The daffodils are teasing me. They are THISCLOSE to opening; the tips are bright yellow, the head has flopped over, and several are partially open. The last few days have ended with the thought that, "Tomorrow will be the day." I truly think that tomorrow will be the day that this first daffodil is in full bloom.

Looking at my gardening journal, I realized that in just a couple weeks the spring flowers in my yard will really be taking off. I can't wait!! In the fall I need to remind myself to look for some extra-early blooming daffodils.

Beer and Brown Sugar Steak Marinade

Pin It Ever since the Big Thaw of '08, I've been working on re-stocking my freezer supply of prepared food. Thanks to a couple good chicken and steak sales, both freezers are nearly full. This weekend I came across a great sale on thick petite sirloin steaks for just $2.79/lb. Needless to say, I stocked up!

We have our very favorite stand-by recipe for steak marinade, but I was in the mood to try some new flavorings. So I turned to and found four highly rated steak marinades:
Before adding the steaks I did a little taste test. By far my favorite was the Beer and Brown Sugar one. My least favorite was the Awesome Steak Marinade. It had too much A-1 sauce in it for my taste. However...I haven't tried it with the steak, so I'll report back once I do more than dip my finger in the sauce!

Since it was also my turn for our Four Family Meal Exchange, I also made this for three other families. We grilled them that night, and WOW! This recipe is a keeper!! It had the right mixture of sweet and salty, being flavorful but not overpowering. I think the key is that you 1) marinate the meat, 2) sprinkle the seasoning on top, and then 3) pour on the rest of the marinade. It's a couple extra (quick!) steps, but it works quite well.

Since the steaks just simply looked like grilled steak, I skipped taking a picture of the final product. But here is a snap of the ingredients I used. I would imagine the type of teriyaki sauce, seasoned salt, and possibly beer could easily change the flavor of the marinade. So below you'll see the specific brands that I used. You don't need to use these, but I promise you'll have a winner steak if you do!

Combine in a small bowl:
1/2 tsp seasoned salt (Lawry's)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Combine in a zip-style bag or plastic bowl:
1/4 C dark beer (Deschutes Black Butte Porter)
2 T teriyaki sauce (Soy Vay Island Teriyaki)
2 T brown sugar

Mix together and add:
2-16 oz sirloin steaks

Marinate the meat for at least 30 minutes.*

Grilling instructions: Place steaks on a heated grill. Sprinkle the seasoning on the steaks. Grill on both sides, until they are cooked to your liking. A couple minutes before you take them off the grill, pour the rest of the marinade over the steaks.

*I marinated them for about 6 hours and it was quite good.