The Greenhouse Project

Well I must say I was in for quite a shock moving from Southern California to Oregon. I made this silly assumption that after we moved up here, growing a garden would be a cake walk. I was leaving behind a state that got into the triple digits for most of the summer. I was gaining a more mild climate, along with rain. How wrong I was. There were so many factors I never anticipated. For starters the weather. I now live in an area where there are 4 defined seasons. Oh sure there were 4 seasons in S. CA, but down there I called it, Spring, Hell, Wind, and something moderately cool.

That being said, I now have to understand that, you just do not plant anything in the ground before Mother’s Day. Seriously! I thought oh pish, it’s 80 degrees outside the frost is over. It was, for 5 days at which point the temperature was dropping to 24 degrees at night. Lost everything I planted due to frost. So now I listen when I hear folks talking in the garden centers. Heed the wisdom! Which is what prompted me to get a greenhouse. I need to be able to control the weather, on a small scale. I researched this project for almost a year. The choice was made, a Solexx Greenhouse that was 12 feet long, 8 feet wide and 8 feet high was purchased.  Below are photos of our assembly and comments.

I must give a lot of thanks to the folks over at the Greenhouse Catalog. Between numerous emails, going to visit them at their location in Salem Oregon and several phone calls I knew I made the right decision. Michael and Bryen answered all my questions and even provided information I had not considered.  I do not agree with some of their installation instructions, but this does not mean I had any regrets in our purchase. And I think they owe me a bottle of wine 🙂

On to the installation. I will be honest the assembly instructions say it will take a couple of days to assemble. I would say this is not quite accurate. It took us a week+ and we’re retired. Part of this is due to the fact you must prepare your area for where the greenhouse will be. We opted for laying down a gravel base. Get ready for your upper body work out folks. We sprayed the area first with vegetation killer, then put down weed guard.

And then it was time to shovel it all in place. I won’t bore you with those tedious shots. I’m just very grateful for Aleve!

Just a few 1,000 lbs of rock.

Just a few 1,000 lbs of rock.

Here we go...

Here we go…

You look at these boxes and you think, “Ok I can do this. Just one step at a time”. So a show of hands, how many of you have had to assemble a swing set, or a bicycle on Christmas Eve? Uh huh…take that and multiple it times 10. As I said prepping is key to success. You need to know where to place it on your property for maximum sun, you may need a permit depending on where you live. Will you need to run electrical to it, water? How will you get electrical/water to it? You know what they say ‘Love is in the details.’

You begin with the base frame and ribs. This goes pretty smoothly. Here is a collage of the various stages.

Framing

Framing

At one point it started to look like a giant whale bone carcass. Do keep in mind, wherever you build it, if it’s not on the site, you will have to carry it later. (Good thing I joined a gym a month before we started).

It is from this stage on that things got a bit…um…challenging. We carried the assembled frame over to the grassy area near the gravel site. Ribs were attached at the top to form the hut.

Ribs connected over top

Ribs connected over top

Front View

Front View

Panels

Panels

We put the panels out in the sun as they come curled up in the box.  And this is where assembly began to fall apart and we had to adapt and improvise.

You are directed to install the panels horizontally and slide them up and over the top. So panel one will become panel 6, and 2 will be 5 etc. Something like this –

Sliding - not so good.

Sliding – not so good.

You are told to use duct tape to help hold them together while you lift the bottom, add the next panel and slide up. Folks we had some duct tape that was so sticky I still have no finger prints and the weight of the panels (while not a lot) was enough to pull the entire thing apart.  That, compiled with a breeze we have out here all the time would lift the panels like a sail. After the 4th attempt we said “forget it let’s go another route!” First we took 4 cinder blocks and made anchors. We then secured one end and tossed the rope over the top and anchored on the side. Each panel was then slipped under the ropes and secured with a couple of screws.

Anchor 1

Anchor 1

Anchor 2

Anchor 2

Notice no duct tape.

What would have been better was to get the solexx siding the way they show it on the site. In long sheets rather than panels. Note the difference. He’s just sliding his from one side to the other thru the connector. Ah well…

This would have been easier

This would have been easier

Once you get all the sides on and secure you can put in your vents and shelves. Mine has 6 base vents, a front louver and rear exhaust.

One of the instructions on the exhaust fan says “Rough cut an opening 16 X 16”. What they should have said was measure and trace exhaust frame and cut neatly. Because if you don’t the back will look like hell. We had to build a frame out of trimmed solexx panels to seal it.

Assembled

Assembled

Front Louver & Shelves installed

Front Louver & Shelves installed

The flooring I got was a tarp that will also help with weed retardant. You can see the exhaust fan in the back, cords will be dressed up a bit more later. The exhaust fan is on it’s own control. You can set it to come on at a specific temperature. This will pull the hot air out of the greenhouse by pulling cooler air from the floor via the floor vents. But the real cool thing is the solar opener.

Solar Opener

Solar Opener

This little device is set to automatically open the front louver when it reaches 65-70 degrees. Trust me you want it to. Some might think but that’s far too soon the greenhouse will cool too fast. It won’t. This is power free by the way. It’s operated via wax in the tube. Wax gets warm, expands and vent is opened. As it cools the wax contracts and closes the vent. Really neat!

Below the electrical is going in. We hired a certified electrician for this because we needed it to code and pass inspection. Some things you cannot cut corners on.

Wall Switches going in

Wall Switches going in

Overhead Outlets

Overhead Outlets

Ready for Plants

Ready for Plants

So here is the inside all done. I also have 4 light panels of T5 lighting. I do not have a heater yet as I don’t want to try and grow in Dec and Jan when the highs are in the 30’s and lows in the 20’s. It would be just too costly. My herbs were moved in and it’s starting to look like a real greenhouse. Next spring I will update with more pictures of what I’m growing. In January I will be taking the Master Gardener classes and get my certification. I am sure that the knowledge I get there will help me immensely with greenhouse gardening success!

Did I mention at night it becomes a beacon for alien space craft?

Alien Beacon?

Alien Beacon?

Wonderful and Easy Homemade Bread!

Unusual storm blowing thru S. Oregon. A bit of rain, some good winds but not real cold. So with that in mind it’s time for 18-hour No Knead Bread and soup. (Just a note, really takes about 20-21 hours when you add in the second rise) Start it at 10am and it’ll be ready for dinner the next evening. This bread is so versatile! You could sprinkle cheese in the middle when you fold it and maybe some jalapeno’s, or add fresh herbs.

3 cups All Purpose Flour

2 ½ tsp Kosher Salt

¼ tsp Active Dry Yeast

1 ½ cups Warm Water

Combine the dry ingredients together in a large plastic or glass bowl. Pour in the water and stir just until mixed. A shaggy dough should form. Cover the bowl loosely (I use a very large glass bowl) and allow it to sit on the counter for about 18 hours. Keep it away from windows if it’s cold outside. The dough is ready when it becomes covered in bubbles and when you can see the strands of gluten forming when you tip the bowl. Your dough will be very wet and sticky. That is how it should be.

Sprinkle the work surface (I like to use my Silpat so that the dough doesn’t stick) with a mixture of about ¼ cup all-purpose flour and ¼ cup cornmeal. Scrape dough out onto the floured surface and fold it four times like you would a letter-once from 3 and 9 towards the middle and once from 6 and 12. Place dough back into the bowl seam-side down and cover again, allowing it to rest for another 2 hours. (Or leave on the Silpat, just make sure it’s covered and has room to rise again)

Midway through the final rise, preheat your oven as well as the 3 to 4-quart pot and lid to 450 degrees for 1 hour. After the dough has risen for about 2 hours, remove the hot pan and lid from the oven and quickly dump the dough into it. It should now be seam-side up. Replace the lid on the pot and bake the dough covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to bake it for 15 to 20 minutes longer. Be sure to check it after 15 minutes to ensure it isn’t burning. If you have a Schlemmertoph clay cooker it’s perfect for the bread. You can also free form it and slide it onto a pizza stone.

I did a double batch and in the first one I formed it into a baguette and put in some roasted garlic. The other I did in the Schlemmertopf pot.

Out of the Schlemmertopf

Out of the Schlemmertopf

Form into a french baquette

Form into a french baquette

Clay Cooker

Clay Cooker

I wish you could smell this bread. Well you can! Geez get in there and whip a batch up and tomorrow you will come back and say “Thank You, it really was so easy!”

Duck a Perfect Comfort Food

So tonight for dinner I embraced techniques, inspiration and bad weather. Technique was making gnocchi which is actually quite fun. Inspiration came from the recent issue of Food and Wine magazine, October issue. Bad weather? Yep, when it’s cold, raining and blustery out I can’t do yard work or get in my garden so I head straight for the kitchen.

And what did I reach for you might ask? What type of dish says “I know it’s cold and raining, but I shall make you warm, I shall make you smile softly and say ‘I am glad I stayed in because I have you on my plate’?” Duck. That glorious meat that is delectable, always consistent in color and taste, and needs very few embellishments to be a dish of exceptional flavor.

Side dishes – homemade gnocchi and roasted carrots. The last of my carrots for the season I might add. (I have made a note to grow many more and at least 4 varieties)

So I buy whole ducks as just buying duck breasts can be very expensive. I fabricate the duck into 2 breasts, 2 legs and 2 thighs. The wings and carcass were used to make a batch of duck stock. Tonight I only needed the breasts so the legs and thighs will be grilled tomorrow.

Here’s where it might get a bit odd for someone not familiar with cooking duck. Duck Fat. It is liquid gold!! I cut all the extra skin and fat from the carcass and render it down and usually end up with about 1/2 a cup of this wonderful fat. If you have never had potatoes fried in duck fat you are missing out. OMG it is phenomenal! Ok back to my post…

Pan searing duck breasts is very easy. You season your duck with what ever spices you wish to use (recipe links below) and score thru the flesh, but not the meat. This will allow the fat to cook out so your meat is basted in goodness.

Gnocchi, which is an Italian dumpling, is made with potatoes. (who doesn’t love potatoes?!) Rolling the gnocchi out on a gnocchi paddle is very easy. If you don’t have a paddle you can use a fork!

Place the cut gnocchi with the cut edges to the sides. I’ve found rolling it the other direction makes it more difficult to get the right shape. Gently push the gnocchi forward, it will start to curl. Remember to keep your pressure light.

Cut side out

Cut side out

Step 1

Step 1

Step 2

Step 2

Step 3

Step 3

Once it’s all rolled out let it chill about an hour. This will firm it up. Matter of fact I put mine in the refrigerator for 30 minutes and then the freezer. This will help remove a bit more moisture so they won’t gum up.

They sure don’t take long to cook. Place into a pot of boiling water. They will sink but soon will start to float. Cook them in batches if you are doing a lot. Let them cook about 3 minutes after they start floating. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl. If you’re using a sauce now is the time to gently toss. Options include brown butter and sage, marinara or for me mushroom ragu. Matter of fact if you are doing gnocchi do a full recipe and freeze the rest for another day.

Don't overcook

Don’t overcook

I cooked 3 different types of mushrooms for my ragu. You can use whatever types you like best. For me it was cremini, shitake and chanterelle’s.

Variety is best.

Variety is best.

Once you have all of the components you have a dinner that is luscious.

Dinner is Served

Dinner is Served

For the duck and carrots I used this recipe. Being as it’s only hubby and myself, I cut the recipe in half.

And here is the gnocchi and mushroom ragu recipe. Again I cut the recipe in half, but I think next time I’ll make a full serving of the mushroom ragu because the leftovers would be fabulous to play with! Matter of fact with the bit of duck and gnocchi we had left I plan on making a duck and gnocchi frittata for breakfast 🙂

Exploration is Key…to fun!

Wenatchee Washington is a wonderful area to explore.

We recently had the opportunity to stay a few days and camp in the Wenatchee River County Park – http://www.wenatcheeriverpark.org/c.aspx?n=about

WONDERFUL place to camp. The spaces are on ‘spokes’ leaving amble room between trailers and it was about a 100′ walk to the shore of the Wenatchee River. I had hopes of Derek getting some fishing in, but being as we have an Oregon fishing license and not a Washington one, that made it a bit difficult.

The next day we took off for Leavenworth WA. Such a cute town based on Bavaria Germany. You may ask “So…just what does one do in a themed town?” *inhales deeply…like Jim Carrey on Ace Ventura* You can – shop, eat, explore, stroll, snack. You can check out local artists, taste wines, taste beers, find new cheeses and bakery treats. Indulge in mustards, chocolates and sausages. There are museums, a delightful summer theatre, and a water front park. *inhales again…* A two story Christmas shop full of every Christmas trinket you could ever want. Or head over to Eagle Creek Ranch (http://www.eaglecreek.ws/) and take a trail ride or sleigh ride. *whew* So I guess you get the idea now eh? There is a lot going on in this little town!

Did I mention when we arrived it was Apple Season! Yep seems those trees were ready to give up their tasty morsels a few weeks early and we got to reap the benefits. A friend of mine turned me on to Honey Crisp apples a few years back and since then I buy them whenever I can find them. Had I known how they would taste in WA, not to mention the sheer size of them, I would have driven to WA to pick my own. Now taking one of these and slicing it to enjoy with a new sheep’s milk cheese I found in Leavenworth, Ossau-Iraty and you have snack like no other. I hear you nay-sayers “Pfft, sheep’s milk cheese Plueease!” Well step back and be amazed! I have lactose intolerance. I cannot eat dairy products (cow’s milk) and thus missed out for years on cheese. Well no more! If you are lactose intolerant I simply must urge you to visit a local cheese shop and talk to the cheese monger. I know that any decent cheese shop will have sheep’s and goat cheeses on hand. Not only that, but be more that willing to let you taste them. Based on our tasting alone we ended up buying a nice hunk to enjoy.

After our day in Leavenworth it was time to check out two other things. Farmers Market and Cider Mills. Oh yes *rubs her hands with glee* First up Smallwoods Harvest http://www.smallwoodsharvest.com/ This is a local owned store that not only offers fresh produce from their orchards, but a petting zoo for the kids, a culinary store for us kitchen freaks, a beautiful park area, cow train, duck pond and all sorts of entertainment.

And then it was time to taste some cider. Only here in the US they call it Hard Cider. Don’t give this stuff to your kids! Our stop of choice was Snowdrift Cider House. http://snowdriftcider.com/ You can also find them on FaceBook at https://www.facebook.com/snowdriftcider After visiting these folks, tasting their wares and learning so much about how various ciders are made, I have a whole new appreciation for what a real hard cider is (which is NOT that stuff like Mikes Hard Cider which is nothing but fermented glucose and apple flavoring – YUCK!) . We even bought a case of 3 of our favorites. And I can honestly say we will be back again! I love a family owned, family run business. Be sure to watch their video on the About Us page and you’ll see what I mean by family owned and operated! I am truly in love with this cider! And when you go in for a tasting you will get to see the process that is involved in making hard cider. I really cannot say enough about this place! Oh wait yes I can – Their phone is 509-630-3507 and they ship!

On the way home we stopped at a campsite called Columbia Riverfront RV Park http://www.columbiariverfrontrvpark.com/ What a neat place to stay! You are right on the Columbia River and folks this is a BIG river. So big in fact you will see this sauntering by –

Massive Ship

Massive Ship

This ship was huge and the engines could be felt more than heard due to the low thrum of the engines. I must say very impressive to see so close. We walked down to the beach and then we were able to walk along the beach for quite a ways. It was so cool to find seashells and lots of drift wood. I had forgotten how good driftwood smells when burned in a camp fire. It doesn’t  smell the same as regular wood. There is a distinct smell of salt (in ocean driftwood)  and moss as it burns that takes me back to the days when I went camping as a kid in Doheny State Beach in California a kid.

So here’s to camping!

Camping Snack

Camping Snack

Thai Curry Episode VII: Advance Authentic Thai Red Curry Paste, Kaeng Panaeng, Kaeng ChuChee, Kaeng Ped and Jungle Curry Paste

I must say that curry is something I have not mastered (yet). But after reading this blog entry I am now not as intimidated as I once was. The details, information and recipes provided made me HUNGRY! Now that’s a good food blog 🙂 I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

The High Heel Gourmet

Advance Thai Red Curry Paste by The High Heel Gourmet 2

I’m starting to feel like I have been neglecting Thai curry as a subject, but it’s summertime and I want to eat light food and all the fresh produce available around here in California more than eating curry. Anyhow, I got a request to make Choo Chee curry, so I think I’ll use this as an appropriate re-entry. After all, it’s after Labor Day, despite the fact that in Manhattan Beach the summer has just begun, if you are talking about temperature.

To make a proper Thai curry, the first thing you need is curry paste. I already gave you the recipe for Kaeng Kua curry paste which is the basis for most red curries. I told you then that I would explain later how to transform the Kaeng Kua to other curry pastes.

Also, I just want to tell you that, to Thai household right before the curry paste…

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1 Pill, 2 Pills, Red Pills, Blue Pills

So while 2013 is going to be the year of The Burger Project, it also the year I eat a bit better and put healthier stuff in my gullet.

Which brings me to my trip to a vitamin store recently.  First if you’ve never been into one of these and you’re going there to pick up one small item, find an employee and fast; tell them what you need. Otherwise you will wander around with the doe in the headlight look for long agonizing minutes.

I’m suppose to be taking all of these –

Hers

Hers

Good lord this is a small meal when you take into consideration all the liquid I’m going to need to get them down! I shudder to think how many times I’ll be trotting off to the tinkler because of all the liquid needed to slurp these down.

Guys you’re going for this little appetizer –

His

His

OoOoo look at all the blue ones! And no you can’t use beer to wash them down.

There are pills, powders and liquids to pump you up, trim you down, speed up your metabolism, brighten your day, keep you focused, increase your memory, remove nausea (though I think taking all these might give me nausea). There are jars of liquid grass. GRASS! Freshly mowed and organic I’m sure. You can get bottles of chlorophyll. This is the stuff that makes plants green. At the vitamin shop it states “…called the ‘building block of life’. Without chlorophyll there is no life…” If you’re a PLANT!  Eat a salad instead.

All kidding aside this is crazy. Vitamins are a billion dollar industry. If I took as many pills as they recommend I would have to give up a meal along with a heft cut of my income due to the expense. And did they go to vitamin school? Cause the girl that helped me couldn’t have been more than 19 years old. I mean if I want to teach nutrition or be a dietician I have to go to 4 years of school. So if Casey really wants to tell me what vitamins I should take, she should really be asking me a few pertinent medical questions don’t cha think?

So not counting synthetic vitamins, where do all these “natural” vitamins get their ingredients from? **whispers** Food.

What what? Food you say? Well let’s see –

Calcium from bone and dairy. (which also covers Vitamin D)

Vitamin C from Citrus
Omega 3 from Fish

Vitamin B’s (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) Turkey, liver, tuna, chili peppers, lentils, bananas, potatoes just to name a few.

Iron – Bran flakes (also makes a nice coating for chicken), oatmeal, cream of wheat, steamed clams.

It all comes down to eating right. Well balanced food, fresh food, seasonal food.

Now the question…why was I there? Yep I went for supplements.  I wanted pure cranberry juice. Not that “cocktail” that you get in grocery stores which is mainly sugar and calcium, as I do not eat much dairy at all due to lactose intolerance.

Granted there are times when supplements are needed, but before you spend $100’s in the quick fix, take a look at your diet. Wouldn’t you rather have a great meal than a fist full of pills? I know I would!

Burger Project 2013 – Hamburger di Italia!

Che un progetto divertente questo è stato e continua ad essere! Oh sorry about that, got caught up in the Italian feel of this chapter. What I was saying was What a fun project this has been and continues to be.

And for the record no I do not speak Italian, rather I Google translate fluently and in many languages.

Tomato Harvest

Tomato Harvest

On to the burger. So a couple of nights ago my inspiration for this burger hit. I had harvested a whole lot of tomatoes and made tomato soup and also a large batch of Arrabbiata sauce and cooked a wonderful roast. Well I had some sauce left over and just refused to waste anything.

This is such a versatile sauce I recommend making a double batch and freezing some!

Arrabbiata Sauce

Arrabbiata Sauce

Everything just pulled together and made a very tasty, moist and packed with lots of flavors, hamburger.

Let’s start with our ingredients. Now remember, I may not type out salt and pepper in all my recipes, but it is a given that you must always taste and season your food. Salt wakes up the dormant flavors that are sometimes hiding just beyond the palates reach because of spicier seasonings, sweetness or even sour. Add a pinch of salt and suddenly you’ll start to taste new flavors you did not even know where there.

P1040791So here we have a pound of good hamburger, some onion, garlic, Proscuitto, Mozzarella and Arrabbiata sauce. You will also need a batch of garlic oil. Which I mentioned in one of my other burger projects.

Start by taking 1/2 of a large onion and grate it. Yes grate. You need this to be a fine consistency and let’s face it that’s a lot of knife work. So get out the grater and do the job much quicker. As you scoop the grated onion up, give a squeeze (over the sink) and get some of the liquid out. Next take 3 cloves of garlic. Now I know I’m going to get some flack here, but I want you to use a garlic press. I know, I know! But there is a time and place for a garlic press and this is it. It’s because you need that super fine consistency. If they are chunky even from a mince they won’t cook evenly. Ok so there, I said it. Add about 1/3 cup of the Arrabbiata sauce, a tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper and mix it up well. Be sure to measure the final product so you can get 4 even patties. P1040792

Put these babies on a medium grill for about 15 minutes. P1040793

Oh do these smell good. But they need to rest for about 5 minutes. Now then, let’s add the toppings and cover for a good rest. Top each burger with one piece of the Proscuitto and a slice of mozzarella cheese. I forgot the picture after I added the cheese but I’m sure you get the idea.

P1040794

Cover the patties and let’s make the buns.  Brush the hamburger buns with the garlic oil and sprinkle some dried Italian herb seasoning (it’s just dried herbs no salt). Place these on the grill and toast.

P1040795

P1040796

Assemble and enjoy 🙂

Italian Burger

I added just a touch of seasoned ketchup to one side of the burger bun. Served it with a salad, why Caesar of course!

You all have been taking notes on this project I hope. There just may be a test at the end.