Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sweet Potato Experiment

I previously mentioned that we had some sweet potatoes that were so old they were starting to grow a tiny vine inside our pantry... So I stuck two in the ground and left one out as a science experiment. Here is my science experiment 2 weeks in.

At some point I may cut the vines back and dig up the roots to see if I have more sweet potatoes I could eat! yum.

Hot Stuff

This summer we have been eating a lot of grilled stuff because I hate sweating over a stove when it's 90 out... So Ethan will grill while I stay cool inside and make the salad/ side dishes. Then I come outside to join him and we drink some cold tasty beverages in the shade
I know that most people nowadays prefer cooking with a gas grill because it is more convenient. But when you have your first piece of meat grilled over hickory lump charcoal after years of gas-grilled meats, you will realize that convenience is definitely NOT everything. Using lump charcoal made from real wood adds a smoky richness to food that is really unique and special.
Also, a basic Weber grill costs only about $80 and will last almost forever because it has no movable (breakable) parts. The downside to the basic Weber is that there is no place to put your grilling utensils, and without lighter fluid it can take potentially FOREVER to get the thing hot enough to use:

This is a picture of the first night we got our Grill. It was taken at about 11 PM because it was the first time that Ethan had ever tried to light a charcoal fire without lighter fluid. I think we ended up eating our hamburgers around midnight.

In order to have faster and more efficient grilling, Ethan and I (but mostly Ethan) had to pimp our grill. No, we didn't add a flat screen TV and 20" rims.

We DID add some simple S-hooks to the grill handle, in order to have a place from which to hang the grilling utensils. S hooks cost like a dollar.

Second, Ethan stuck a small metal organizing basket into the bottom part of the grill where the charcoal goes. This keeps the charcoal more organized, so you can use smaller pieces (which light faster) and you can use less charcoal. He then uses strips of twisted paper grocery bags as wicks, which he inserts and lights through the vent holes at the bottom of the grill. This way when the paper begins to burn, the heat rises, in turn lighting the charcoal.

With this advanced grilling technique, Ethan has made such wonderful things as:

hot-dog shaped hamburgers for when you have the wrong kind of bun!

Aussie-style hamburgers

He's also made really awesome steaks, brats, hot dogs, salmon steaks, salmon patties, turkey burgers, chicken, fajitas, and pork chops, but I don't take pictures of everything we eat (I don't think a picture of a grilled chicken breast is super exciting).

Harvest time.

I had to start my orientation this week. The first two days were not that terrible as we were learning Advanced Trauma Life Support (And I start my rotations in the ER, so what we learned is going to be pretty immediately applicable). But today was kind of terrible. I had orientation at the VA and the BEST part of today was a woman dressed up as a giant hand giving us a power-point presentation about how and when to use alcohol-based hand cleaner. I didn't get a picture, unfortunately.
Spending a half a day listening to presentations about billing, compliance, patient safety, hand-washing, coding, fire safety, parking, computer safety, etc is just not my cup of tea. Actually I really spent my time tuning the presentations out while playing on the internet, and I started looking at seed catalogs online. Which brings me around to the topic of our garden!

Today I harvested several jalapenos and a red bell pepper! We are going to roast the red pepper and put it on a pesto and goat's cheese pizza tonight. I'm not sure yet what to do with the jalapenos but they may be pickled.
Our tomato plants started flowering again when the temps got under 100 last week. I tried to pollinate them with my fingers, but I'm not sure if it worked. only time will tell!

The squash that I planted really late in the season (like end of May) have started to flower.

The mammoth sunflowers are almost as tall as our chain-link fence. In the past two weeks they have grown about 2 feet in height.

The top of the sunflower is looking really cool... I'm not a gardening genius but I'm pretty sure this means that it is about to make a flower.

And here is the full view of our garden!

As a reminder, this is what it looked like about a month and a half ago.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

gardening again

Here's my garden update! I am pretty certain that I like these more than anyone else. I am just so amazed when I look at how much things have grown in such a short period of time!

My Mammoth sunflower plants are now up past my knees. I also planted some purple heirloom string beans next to them that are starting to vine up the fence (and I only put them in the ground like two weeks ago!)

My squash plants are growing slowly but steadily. After having to thin them excessively (I pulled up more than half), I realized that when I prepare the soil and enrich it and protect my little seedlings from predators, then I don't actually have to plant the entire package of seeds. I know, it should be common sense, but I have NEVER done this before in my life. I'm planning on training them to vine up the fence too, to keep the fruits away from little bugs and pests.

My tomato plants keep getting bigger and bigger, and making some flowers, but then the flowers are falling off. I think it's getting too hot for them. I'm sure I'll have a bumper crop in the fall when it's not 100 degrees out anymore.

My peppers don't seem to mind the heat; they're producing well. I can't wait till the jalapenos get big enough to harvest and pickle.

Last but not least, I have started a little science experiment: We had some sweet potatoes that were in the pantry so long that they started to grow a vine... like with leaves on it and everything. I decided to put two of them in the ground, and one is living on our back porch. I'm going to compare how they do in their different habitats!

look out for the cook out

On Sunday we had a big graduation party/cookout at our place. We of course had all my favorite summer foods (summer foods in my mind meaning ones that I don't have to cook- I'm fine with chopping and mixing, but I don't want to turn on an oven when it's 100 degrees out)
For sides/appetizers we had:
insalata caprese,
yummy fruit salad with pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi
field green salad with chevre, strawberries, and pecan pieces in balsamic vinaigrette
shrimp cocktail
salsa and home-made guacamole

Ethan made some delicious hamburgers, along with brats and hot dogs for the little guests:

For dessert, my mom got me my favorite cake from Whole Foods, the Berry Chantilly, and my little sister Erin surprised us with a dozen cupcakes from Sprinkles (which I may or may not have eaten for breakfast the next day)

I made some REALLY yummy sangria
Me enjoying the sangria and our new Adirondack-style chairs that my mom got for our yard

Shannon and Brittany enjoying some sangria

Two of the most popular things we had were the sangria and the burgers. I made a double batch of sangria and had to go back and make more mid-party, and I think Ethan made more hamburgers than we had adult guests, and they were almost all eaten.

1 750 mL bottle of inexpensive red wine (I used bottles that were $5 from Whole Foods)
1/2 Cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4-1/2 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup Orange Juice
1/4 Cup Orange-flavored liqueur
I mixed up all of the above ingredients (Although I made a double recipe) and put it in a big vase. I served it with a side of chopped up strawberries and blueberries, and seltzer water on the side for people who wanted a little less strong of a flavor.
I guess if I were being fancy I would have used nicer wine and maybe some Grand Marnier instead of triple sec, but honestly there were so many flavors going on that I don't think it would have made a huge difference (especially after the first glass!)

1 pound ground beef
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 t salt
1 t freshly ground black pepper
1/2 t dried basil leaves
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, shape into patties, grill.
Ethan uses Hickory lump charcoal and no lighter fluid, which makes a big difference in taste from using gas or charcoal briquettes.

We had way too much food, but luckily it was all things that we love to eat, so we don't mind in the least! I've been eating fruit salad and shrimp and cake for every meal for the last couple of days, and I don't think I will ever get tired of those foods.

ahem...That's DOCTOR Losefast.

Yes after four long years of medical school, I finally finished! It still hasn't sunk in that they actually gave me a diploma (and that there is no more red tape for me to struggle through on my journey towards earning it!)

The whole weekend was a lot of fun... I was thoroughly spoiled by my family and friends and had a great time.

Since the graduation was downtown (and I had to be there at 6:45) we decided to have ceviche and tapas (and cocktails) at Stephan Pyles. We had been itching to try their ceviche but we'd never had a big enough occasion to justify the splurge. It was good, creative, and very gourmet, but to be honest I really like the old-fashioned classic ceviche with plenty of peppers and spice. I also probably could have eaten about four times as much as they served us (I'm an oinker I know). It really made me excited to make ceviche again, maybe with some home-grown jalapenos.