Love in the Kitchen - making fast, healthy, homegrown meals you'll enjoy

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Garden Party - Getting Close!

Things are moving along here in our garden, and it looks like we'll have a variety of wonderful veggies soon.  Here's what you'll find if you take a look around:

Oh my - our hydroponic lettuce is growing like crazy!  And it really does taste amazing!

The first of the corn is nearly ready - this one has a lot of odd growth....

And guess what is growing again?  That's right - more lemons!

Our sweet peppers are growing like crazy.

I'm not sure you can see how well they are doing from that last picture - here's something to help with scale.  Lovely!

More beautiful jalapenos too!

Starting the summer peas.

This guy just sprang up suddenly.  I decided to keep him, even though this isn't his pot.  He's got flowers, which could mean tomatoes.

And besides, the basil that is growing in that pot is doing well - and they are said to grow well together.

Boysenberries growing taller.

Blackberries not as much.

Tomatoes though?  Getting going!  Some have bunches....

... some are oblong...

... some have odd shapes...

... some are wrinkly...

... and a few are ittty bitty.

This is what we did with the first couple of volunteers off the vine.  We're hoping for more soon!

Check back next week to see what else we're up to in the garden - in the meantime, check out An Oregon Cottage for her weekly Garden Party.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Harvest Monday: July 30, 2012

This week ....

Tiny Tomatoes

a Plethora of Peppers

and Sweet Sweet Strawberries!

Finally some tomatoes!  Not sure of which variety, as those are my volunteers, but I'm glad they showed up! We've got a lot ripening on the vine, so in a month perhaps, we'll have tomatoes (as my grandpa would say) coming out of our ears!

And speaking of ears, corn in the next week or so - yea!

Total Harvest for the Week: 1 pound, 4.3 ounces
Total Harvest for the Year: 31 pounds, 6.7 ounces

The strawberries are still going strong, as are the hot peppers and the peas.  We'll even get some tomatoes this week!!  And maybe, just maybe, some more delicious tender salad greens!

 Linked up with Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday... hop on over and see what else is being picked this week.

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Visiting London - For Less!

Are the Olympics inspiring you to take a London vacation?  We love visiting London, but it is quite expensive (the Brits might say "quite dear").  Today we would like to share our best tips on vacationing for less, and getting the most out of your stay.

1.  Timing is important (Saving time and money)
Best (cheapest) times to go are late fall and early spring.  While the weather mostly likely won't be ideal (cold and wet) the flights/accommodations will be at their least expensive.  And you aren't going to London for a beach vacation anyway.  If you think you are, you have mixed up your travel books.
Late fall/early spring are also when the fewest tourists are in town.  (hence the lower prices)  This means fewer (or at least shorter) queues.  "Queues" is British for lines.  ;-)
One important thing to note in this strategy:   not everything is open all year long, particularly some of the royal-related spots.  For example, Buckingham Palace is only open to the public July - early October.  If you really want to see something particular, you want to make certain that it will be open when you get there.

2.  Do your research (Making the most of your time)
This is an important one if you want to make the most of your time.  Know the things that you want to see and the places you want to go.  Find out where they are, when they are open and how much they cost.  We made a website for our trip - - with our itinerary, map, and all the places we planned to see.  This helped us make sure that we got to see everything that we wanted to see, and kept us on schedule when we needed to be.

3.  Take the non-stop flight if you can. (Making the most of your time)
We live in San Diego.  When we went to London last year, we didn't have the option of a non-stop and took a flight that stopped in Minneapolis.  That made about a 4 hour flight to MSP and then another 8 or so to get to Heathrow.  This year, British Air started a non-stop flight out of San Diego to Heathrow, and it takes about 10 hours.  A single 10 hour overnight flight gives you a much better opportunity to sleep, which will definitely help with jet-lag.
And once you get there - if coming from most of the United States, sometime in the afternoon - you are best off staying awake until after dinner.  Plan something for after you've checked into your flat or hotel.  The London Eye is a great place to start your London vacation.... and it works if you are tired.  Or take a walk around a nearby park.  Have dinner at the Hard Rock.  Then, head back home and enjoy an early night.  You should be able to head off quite a bit of the jet-lag.

4.  Stay at a vacation rental flat instead of a hotel  (Saving money)
You can find a number of different websites that will help you find a flat to rent.  We've used and, but there are others out there.  
Advantages of a flat over a hotel:
  • If you would have more than one hotel room, a flat will be cheaper 
  •  You will have kitchen facilities
  • You can get laundry facilities 
  •  You will have more space
  • You will probably have free internet
  • You will have a more authentic "London" experience
  • If you have a large group, houses are available and will save even more 
Disadvantage of a flat over a hotel:
  • You don't know exactly what you are going to get
  • May be louder
  • No room service 
We had a great experience with our first flat.  The owners were very friendly, easy to deal with from the US and easy to contact.  The flat itself was clean, modern and well-furnished.  And we had a great location.  We loved having laundry - we just put the load in the washer/dryer unit when we left in the morning and it was done when we came back later in the day.  Having the kitchen allowed us to have breakfast and occasionally dinner at the flat, which saved a lot.
I'll let you know about the next flat when we return from our trip in October.
5.  London Pass (Saving time and money)
The London Pass is a city sightseeing card which allows you free access to more than 55 attractions, and allows you to go the front of the queue in a number of different attractions.  The London Pass can be purchased for 1, 2, 3 or 6 day periods.  And here's where your research comes in to play.  Take a look at the list of things you want to see and compare it to the list of attractions on the London Pass.  You can figure out your savings to determine which of the alternatives is best for you.
If you do get one, spend some time reviewing the list of attractions.  We found some really interesting things on that list that we never would have done if we didn't have the Pass. 
6.  Make the most of the free things (Saving money)
Many London museums and attractions are free.  Free!  
The British Museum is one of the best museums in the world.  Free.  If you go (and you definitely should go), take some of the short guided tours.  They are given by Blue Badge Guides (certified tour guides) and really add a lot to your experience.
 The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) is another amazing museum.  Also free.  As is the Imperial War Museum, the National Gallery, the Bank of England Museum, The Museum of London and the National Maritime Museum.  Even Tate Modern.  (though I am not sure that Tate Modern is worth the cost....)
Did you know that you can visit the Houses of Parliament?   And that it is free?
Certainly one of the most popular tourist spots in London is Westminster Abbey.  And rightly so.  The Abbey is incredibly rich in history, and a sight not to be missed.  St. Paul's Cathedral is also right up there in terms of history and architectural beauty.  And the views from the top are breathtaking!  If you happen to be visiting on a Sunday, get up early and go to the 8:00 AM services at Westminster or St. Paul's.  In fact, stay for two Sundays and go to both.  Free (which is nice as both the Abbey and St. Paul's charge an entry fee when not attending services)!
And don't forget to take in the many parks in the city.  Walk along the River Thames and cross the famous bridges.  This is a great way to enjoy London!
7.  London Evenings (Making the most of your time)
One thing you will notice is that attractions tend to close between 5:30 and 6:00.  To make the most of your trip, you will want to find the things that are open late and save them for the evenings.  Some attractions that are open late:
  • The British Museum (some nights)
  • The National Gallery (some nights)
  • Houses of Parliament - viewing debate in the House of Commons and House of Lords from the public gallery
  • Tate Modern and Tate Britain
  • Harrods
  • Ceremony of the Keys
Another great evening activity is the London Walks.  London Walks puts on reasonably inexpensive walking tours of London, with many different themes.  And many are held in the evening!  We did a Harry Potter tour, Westminster by Gaslight, Jack the Ripper's London, and the Ancient City at Night.  Wonderful way to see the city!  And, London Walks gives a discount to folks with the London Pass. 
8.  Getting Around (Saving time and money)
London has great public transportation.  Best transportation for distances of a half mile or so?  Walking!  Walking (1) is free, (2) allows you to see things as you go from place to place, and (3) is fastest.
When walking isn't an option, consider the bus.  The bus is the cheapest form of public transport and you can get a bit of a free tour as you go.  It is probably also fastest for trips of up to about 3 miles.
The London Underground (known as the tube) is a great option for other trips.  It is quite easy to navigate, quite clean and safe.  You may find it quite crowded if you are travelling at rush hours, and people move quickly.  And the tube is more expensive than the bus.  Be sure to mind the gap between the train and the platform when you ride!
If you plan to be in the city for more than a couple of days, consider getting an Oyster card, which is a re-loadable card for use on the London public transport.  This will save you time.  Plus, you will look like one of the cool kids if you keep your card in its flap and wave it over the sensor. 
9.  Eating (Saving money)
The cheapest places to eat are generally pubs.  And they have great food!  Often free wi-fi too.  Breakfast at your flat is a quick and inexpensive option too.  Do splurge on a good English High Tea - it is worth the experience!

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas for your London vacation.  We'd be happy to answer any questions you might have.  We're planning a trip in October and we will be taking my Mom who uses a wheelchair, so we are doing our research on accessibility as well.  If you've got suggestions for me, leave a comment or send me an email.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Roasted Rainbow Peppers

The Mr made this killer topping for the steak we grilled the other night.  And it was easy to make - while the steak was grilling!

Here's how to do it:

Roasted Rainbow Peppers


  • Various peppers (I used here 1 poblano, 1 Anaheim, 1 habanero, 1 jalapeno, 1 red bell and 9 baby sweet bells... because that is what I had on the counter)
  • 1 lemon

  • Directions:

    Throw the peppers on the grill, over a high heat.  (this step can also be done under the broiler)

    Grill (or broil) until the skins are charred and the peppers are soft.  Remove from the grill.

    Slice the tops off the peppers to remove the stem.  Be careful - they will be hot!  You can leave the ribs and seeds from the smaller peppers, but remove from the larger bells peppers.

    Slice the roasted peppers into thin strips and then chop to desired size.  The hotter peppers should be chopped finely so that they can be distributed throughout the mixture.

    Place all of the peppers in a bowl.

    Stir in the juice of one lemon.  This will help enhance and distribute the flavors.
    And that's it - it is ready to serve with your favorite steak, chicken, fish.... this would taste great over pasta, or with eggs, or even on its own.  You can adjust the heat of the dish by the peppers you include.  I like a lot of heat, so I used the habanero and jalapeno, but this would work with any combination of peppers.

    Do you have any great ideas for all the fabulous peppers we can find at the farmer's markets or that come out of your garden this summer?

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    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Sweet Vanilla Lemonade

    This is a tasty treat, with a surprising hint of vanilla.  And it is sugar free!

    We planted stevia in our herb garden this year and have yet to really use it - until tonight.  Instead of using sugar or Splenda to sweeten our lemonade, I made a simple syrup with stevia.  Sweet!

    Sweet Vanilla Lemonade

    2 lemons (I used Meyer because they have a delicious, fragrant flavor and they grow in my garden, but any lemons will work)
    1/2 cup chopped stevia
    3 strawberries (optional)
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    6 cups of water, plus ice


    1.  Place the stevia and two cups of water in a small pan.  Bring to a boil and turn off the heat.  Steep for several minutes.   Taste the syrup - you can add more stevia if it is not sweet enough and steep for a bit longer.

    2.  Strain into a medium bowl.

    3.  Squeeze the lemons into the stevia syrup.

    4.  Add the vanilla and the juice (or pulp) of three strawberries if desired.

    5.  Add 2 cups of the remaining water and taste to make sure the lemonade is not too concentrated.  If it is, add more water.  If necessary, add some Splenda (mine was quite sweet, but I would have added something if it wasn't because I like my lemonade on the sweet side).

    6.  Add ice to two glasses and pout the lemonade over the ice.  Enjoy!

    There you have it - a cool, tasty drink for your hot summer afternoon!

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    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    Pear, Lettuce and Cabernet Soaked Cheddar Salad

    I know you all have been wondering what we did with the first of our hydroponic lettuce.   I'm sure the curiosity has been eating at you!

    We didn't have a lot, but I did want everyone to have a taste - so I made a salad that featured fresh, tasty pears, with our tender lettuce adding a crispy sweet flavor to the top.

    Here's how we made it:


  • 4 handfuls salad greens, washed and dried
  • 2 pears, washed, cored thinly
  • 8 slices Purple Moon Cabernet Soaked Cheddar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

  • Directions:

    Divide the pears onto 4 chilled plates.

    Top with lettuce.

    Lay two slices of the cheese over each salad. In a small bowl combine the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and olive oil. Whisk together and season with salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste. Drizzle half over the salads and serve the rest on the side.

    This was a lovely start to our dinner.  The cheddar was a great surprise flavor as well as adding a bright purple line of color to the salad.  And our lettuce was the star of the show!

    Not everyone enjoys fruit in their salads - do you?

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    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Tuesday Garden Party - Midsummer Dreaming

    We're so close to so much in the garden this week.  But it's not quite there yet.

    So we dream of  Sweet Corn...


    And juicy Tomatoes... (does anyone have any ideas why so many of our blossoms dry up? - you can see it on all of the plants I've shown here)

    Crisp and tender Lettuce....

    And Sweet Peppers...

    Hot Peppers...

    Soon to be the HOTTEST Peppers!  But doesn't this little guy look ?  Hard to believe he'll be giving us Ghost Peppers in a few months!

    Check back next week to see what else we're up to in the garden - in the meantime, check out An Oregon Cottage for her weekly Garden Party.

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