Home In Disarray

February 23, 2009

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup
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Pronounced Tort-ill-uh Soup. After my chicken mojo burritos that I made last sunday, I had 4 chicken carcasses that were all soaked in adobo and lime. I’m not one to waste the beauty that is chicken wreckage, so I simmered them with some garlic and onion for about 8 hours and then froze the strained stock in freezer bags.

My rough recipe was:
6 vine ripe tomatoes, washed and halved
1 red bell pepper, washed, seeded and halved
3 small ears of corn, peeled
1 ripened jalapeño pepper (turned orange)
4 chicken breasts, rinsed and sprinkled with cumin and chipotle powder
1 red onion, peeled and halved
*grill all sides of the above, make sure you get nice blackish bits on them
*after grilled, put everything into a blender except the corn and chicken breasts
*add a few teaspoons of adobo paste, and a couple teaspoons of ground cumin, blend until smooth, then run through a wire mesh strainer/sieve. This takes a while, you have to scrape the strainer down quite a bit, there’s a lot of tomato and pepper skin/seeds to sort out
*let chicken rest until room temperature-ish, then slice/chop into pieces that seem like the right size
*cut the kernels off of the corn cob
*Put 2-3 quarts of chicken stock into a dutch oven, simmer slightly covered, or uncovered until reduced by 1/3-1/2.
*Add the spicy tomato mixture to the stock and simmer to blend the flavors
*about 30 minutes before serving, add in 1 14oz can of crushed tomatoes, the chicken, and the corn, continue simmering on low until it’s time to eat.
*serve with slices of lime, cheddar cheese, fried tortilla strips (I made my own out of a few 6″ corn tortillas fried at 350º), sour cream, sliced avocado, and cilantro. I thought I had good cilantro in my fridge, but then I opened up the container and it smelled weird, so I figured we’d just have tortilla soup without cilantro. It was fine.

I also had some pita that I bought a few days ago, so I got hummus at costco, and it was right next to the Jalapeño artichoke dip that I can’t resist, so I made a little appetizer plate while we waited for Craig’s mom and her friend to get here. Yes, I made those chips too. Once I had success with the tortilla strips I started looking around the kitchen for what else I could fry.
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In addition to the soup, I made a baby greens and blood orange salad with jicama, avocado and a blood orange vinaigrette. It was kind of weird, mostly because I infused the olive oil that I used with a little too much garlic and it stepped all over the flavor of the oranges.
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The soup:
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In my bowl:
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I forgot to include the avocados in the photo. I remembered them before I ate the soup though, thank god!
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Dessert was a strange fruit salad. It was blueberries, pumello, orange, blood orange, and lime, with a vanilla simple syrup.
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Posted in: Cooking
February 22, 2009

The yard and why I hate the old lady that lived here first.

The yard and why I hate the old lady that lived here first.
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So I knew that I needed to get this done asap. The lumber for my raised veggie beds will be here Monday, I have to get it stained, cut, drilled, and ready to be assembled by next weekend (plus grade the area, as that part of the yard is nowhere near level). I have to assemble the beds in a week, so that by next weekend, I can have soil delivered to fill the beds and fill in the hole where the vinca used to reside. So you see, it’s all connected. Plus I need to start hording newspapers from work. I’m laying down a layer of them before I put the topsoil down to dissuade the remaining vinca roots from returning from the dead.

I’ve been avoiding spending extended periods of time outside doing this because the longer I do it, the less it feels like I’m getting done. So in a valiant effort to procrastinate, aided by Craig’s concern that I can’t hear bad guys sneaking up on me, or the dog escaping if I have headphones in my ears, I headed to Wal*Mart. I got a little boom box, a candy thermometer (I’m making tortilla soup soon and need to fry tortilla strips), batteries for the boom box, (for the off chance that I lose power and ABSOLUTELY need to listen to music, and my computer battery’s dead) and some killer compound loppers. You’ll understand my need for them later.

After spending a great many hours avoiding doing the yard work, I started burning a CD (I bought the boom box after all!), and got to it. I’ve found that alternating what I’m doing may make it take a little longer, but it’s bearable, which is the most important thing. I dug out some vinca, then pruned out parts of the diseased rhododendron in the northeast corner of the yard. It has black mildew. I treated it with the sprayer once, but it doesn’t look much better yet. I figured it probably needs some air circulation, and having leaves hanging all the way to the ground won’t help. Plus it has awesome bark for a rhododendron, it looks like madrona bark, all coppery and peely with creamy greenish yellow underneath.
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Then I went back to digging for a while. Here’s my wreckage.
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Then I sprayed the loppers with starsan to kill whatever diseases they might have picked up on the other rhody, and trimmed back the bottom branches of the smallest one in the yard that’s being viciously attacked by vinca, so I could get in there and figure out how to remove it.
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And LUCKY ME! I found another stump.
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I also determined that I didn’t want to damage the rhody’s root system, so I pulled all the vinca that would come out easily, and cut the green parts off of the rest.
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Which was way more satisfying than digging it for some reason
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And I cut back the bottom branches and a great deal of dead wood from the inside of this stand/wall of 3 rhododendrons to mix things up
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Then I took a photo of Boris. He’s still tired today from running around outside trying to figure out a way out of the fence
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Here’s the little bit that I still haven’t removed. It was running late, and I still needed to shower and clean up the house before my dad and Kim got here for dinner.
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So I snapped a few pictures of my wreckage and headed in.
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While I was out working in the yard, the next door neighbor, who has like 4 lawnmowers and a few sets of tires hanging out in his back yard, but is VERY nice, and we get along well together, came out. Boris was barking at him (protecting me 🙂 ) so I introduced them and we discussed the state of the yard. I ranted about the vine a little and he said “The old lady said she wanted a ground cover that she didn’t need to mess with.” Good for her, she picked the most invasive vine in existence! “And she made me cut back the bottom branches of my tree so her rhododendrons would have more room. She LOVED her rhododendrons.”

Which brings me to the reasons that I kind of hate her (even though she’s dead… I’m probably going to hell). She planted vines on Washington’s invasive species list. They’ll certainly come back, all because she was lazy. She could have just hired a crew of mexicans to come through twice a year and clean up the yard. Grrrr. Oh well. She loved her rhododendrons. Which is the reason that every time I look out my front window, I see this:

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Which is the real reason I bought the loppers. 🙂

Posted in: Garden
February 19, 2009

My little herblings

My little herblings
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I’ve been feeling springy ever since we began getting sun and the weather warmed up. I’m also excited to start my first garden. I figured that I’d start with my herb containers, or pots that I’m going to situate on the deck in full sun. On Valentines day, I planted cilantro, parsley, chives, basil and thyme in little peat plugs. The basil was first to show sprouts, followed by the thyme, and after that, the chives. I still don’t have any signs of life from the cilantro or parsley, but according to the internet, cilantro takes 7-10 days, and chives 21 days. I hope I can be patient enough to wait for them!

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Though my basil was the first to show signs of life, it’s progressing slowly and honestly looks kind lame, just a little pointy white thing sticking out.

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The thyme is the star of the show, it already has little green round leaves sticking out, and most of the seeds that I planted in each plug seem to be germinated. To be honest, I’m a little impressed and will probably end up using this as a ground cover in addition to using it in my herb garden. It seems lively enough and IIRC, is partly evergreen. Of course I’m having visions of covering the hillside with thyme, and inhaling it’s heavenly aroma as the dogs tear across it. I guess this will likely remain as visions.

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The chives are slowly developing their little pointy things too. I hope they sprout a little more vigorously than the basil. I wouldn’t mind using them as ornamental grasses or something similar as well.

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I also bought a different type of tray to start my real fruits and veggies on. So far I have started my poblano peppers, my banana peppers, my tomatoes, and cucumber. My summer squash mix and bell peppers haven’t arrived yet, nor have my orange and red watermelons.

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Posted in: Garden
February 18, 2009

My stumps

My stumps
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When we moved into the house, I knew there needed to be some landscaping done, but I didn’t quite understand the vast scope of work that I’d need to accomplish to make it not look like a house on the reservation.

There are a couple stumps in the bottom of the yard. There were these ugly white plastic buckets (probably 4 gallon buckets) that held rocks, moss, and silk flowers. I can only assume that they were placed there about a decade ago and when I decided to throw them away, they shattered upon contact with my hands. I guess year after year of UV radiation made the plastic a little brittle. In addition to the dazzling beauty of the buckets, there was fine wire mesh stapled to the stumps, I assume to encourage the huge amounts of vines to climb them and somehow hide them. Unfortunately, the mesh was unsuccessful, and it just looked like wire mesh stapled to a stump, flanked by some overgrown vines and a plastic bucket full of faded fake flowers. You can kind of see it in this photo, as well as another of the “planters” housing fake flowers in the foreground.

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Now I originally set out to pull up the vine in an attempt to dig out the stumps for removal. I quickly found out that it wasn’t just any kind of vine, but that it came up in thick mats, like sod, but about 8″ thick. I had to dig squares of it out and be sure to remove all of the roots from the ground. The mat of vine would come up along with all of my top soil, leaving a sandy pit in it’s absence.

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Feeling frustrated, I took some photos of the vine and posted them on a gardening forum in an attempt to identify them and see if there was a better way to go about eradicating the vine. I found out that it’s Vinca Minor, or common Periwinkle, an obscenely invasive shade plant that is nearly impossible to kill. Roundup won’t touch it because the waxy leaves just shed the poison, and mowing it simply spreads it to other parts of your yard. The only way short of digging it out is 3 layers of cardboard, 1 layer of black plastic, and a few years. Not willing to give up 1/3 of my yard for a year, I’m stuck digging this out.

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I had the genius idea (and lack of conscience regarding giving my vines to someone else) to post this up for free on craigslist, providing someone brings their own wheelbarrow, shovel, and anything else they may need. I figured the yard is in bad enough shape that they’ll have trouble making it look any worse, and they’ll do a great deal of the work for me. I lucked out and someone in Redmond was trying to cover up a shady slope that grass wouldn’t grow on, and was looking for some free Vinca. He came and took the majority of it, so there are just wispy edges and grassy clumps left to remove. But then I have to finish digging out these 2 stumps, hack off the roots (which are filled with termites btw), and haul them out of the yard. Following that, I have to get my raised beds built for veggies, and then have 3+ yards of topsoil delivered so I can get to planting my privacy shrubs and other various perennials so I have a pretty yard that Vinca can’t take over again. Ugh.

Posted in: Landscaping
February 9, 2009

More dog obsession photos

More dog obsession photos
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When Craig went to work today, Boris pouted around the house for a while. He even whined a couple times. I was also in and out of the house, taking photos of stuff to put on craigslist and he got very concerned every time I went into the garage. Poor guy. He probably thinks we’ll leave him here all by himself for good. 🙁
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And he smells fresh. He got a bath on sunday morning and no longer smells like a kennel.

Posted in: Dogs
February 9, 2009

Boris

Boris
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This morning Craig got up to feed and let out the dog, then came in the house to tell me that we got 2″ of snow. Following him came Boris, who came to my side of the bed, and I pet him. Then Craig left, and Boris stayed in the bedroom and whined when I stopped scratching him and tried to go back to bed. So I turned on my bedside light and got dressed. Boris stayed to wait for me to make sure I was coming with him. When I got close to the door he headed down the hallway and I headed back to turn off my bedside light. He got concerned that I wasn’t with him and came back to be sure I was ACTUALLY coming to the living area.

Posted in: Dogs
February 8, 2009

Shelton

Shelton
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Instead of going Jeep shopping today, Craig and I took the Rondo down to Shelton (about 2 hours away) to get something even better than a Jeep, a pooch!
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His name is Boris, he’s a 1 year old Malamute mix. He weighs 60-70lbs and is a total sweetheart. He still has some bad manners like jumping up on you when he’s excited, but he’s house trained and can sit and stay, which is impressive for a dog that spent the majority of his life in a 4’x4′ kennel. He gets along with Perry the cat fairly well too, which was a big concern. They’ve gotten into a few small altercations, but Perry stands up for himself.
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Ian brought Sophie over to meet/play with Boris and they’ve been getting along famously! From the first moment they were smelling and chasing each other around. They’ve been wrestling for the last 3 hours.
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But they are on the fast track to becoming lovers
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Posted in: Dogs