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The almost finished garden project. You can see a few barely blooming starts on the lower right hand side. I managed to plant most of the rest of the garden on a rare sunny day a couple of days ago… after the snow had passed… finally!!

Two of our three chickens. We used to have four but sadly we lost one. Life on the farm is rough. 🙂

Still waiting to see if we have any roosters. I’m sure our neighbors will let us know as soon as they hear the early morning wake-up call.

A very preggo belly and chocolate cream pie complete with birthday candles and mini marshmallows.

“Pick-your-nose” birthday cups. I don’t think there is much more I can say.

Here are a few pictures to show our progress. Hopefully very soon our pictures will show quite a bit more progress! 🙂

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Our friend Garrett, the tree pruner, trying to bring some life back to this old apple tree.

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The future garden spot.

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The chicks.

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The garden almost ready to be planted.

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My little budding farmer putting on his froggy boots.

By the end of this week we hope to have the garden ready for planting and we will then work on fencing the yard and garden in.

It’s a lot of work but I keep on envisioning those lovely Summer nights, gazing out upon my garden to decide what’s for dinner.

It feels rather Spring-like around our house these days and I am loving it. I think I have come down with a severe case of “nesting” because I seem to have given a sudden boost in motivation to get things done in and around the house. It has been rather exciting and productive but I can not seem to rest until we get more and more accomplished and at the stage I am at in pregnancy much rest is required.

As I sit and write this post I hear four little chicks chirping and pecking in their little box home. A light keeps them cozy and warm as they are still quite tiny and vulnerable. Each day (actually a few times throughout the day) I peer in their home to see the progress of their feather growth. Gabe was gone a few days doing a shoot in Portland and came home surprised to see how much they have changed. I will post some photos soon (my photographer has been quite busy).

In our breakfast nook I have created a small greenhouse where I am starting a number of seeds to be added to my soon-to-be complete vegetable garden. For my birthday Gabe is making me a very spacious vegetable bed. Inside the garden will be a gravel path and a raised bed in the center with seating around it so when our garden is bountiful we can sit and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Fresh eggs and fresh produce…. I sense some tasty food coming this Summer.

Speaking of Eggs… once again we are welcoming Orangette in the kitchen. She and Brandon will be teaching us all about the glorious EGG!! One of the most nutritious foods on the planet. We’re going to make mayonnaise, souffle, and perfectly poached and hard boiled eggs.

In case you missed the last class.. here are the photos from it. 

While on vacation I was tagged for a Meme by the very lovely Aran from Cannelle et Vanille. Now that I am back getting settled into my non-vacation life I thought it was time for me to sit down and figure out what exactly is a Meme.
This particular meme asks me to divulge 5 facts about me. So let me think… five facts interesting or not beyond the fact that I like food and generally lean towards the sweeter side – because let’s face it, you don’t have to be a regular reader to realize that. But what don’t you know?

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The best part of me

1. I have been the entertainment at many family functions performing my stupid human trick, which involves me sticking my entire fist into my mouth. Don’t ask me why this is so entertaining but for some reason my cousin cannot get enough of it. Last time I attempted this spectacle my jaw locked for a moment. I have since stopped my performance.

2. Now this one is really hard for me to admit but I feel as my loyal audience you deserve a right to know. Please do not think any less of me. I have a love affair with Peanut Buster Parfaits from Dairy Queen. I can not get enough of the delicious interplay between the salty crunch of the Spanish peanuts, the cold, silky-sweet “ice milk” and the layers of dark, warm fudge all devoured with that elongated petit red spoon. This intense love of PBPs comes most strongly during pregnancy.

3. My original career path was to be a high school art teacher. I have an art degree in studio arts and have only my student teaching to complete before I receive my certification. I spent a good chunk of my studies in Italy – which is where I believe I truly fell in love with food (and also where I got engaged).

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4. I secretly have a desire to be a farmer. Well, I think more accurately is that I like the idea of being self-sufficient and completely sustainable. So what am I doing to accomplish this secret desire? Good question. First of all I am about to be the proud owner of three Bantam chickens. (More on this soon – I am getting the chickens tomorrow and my sweet brother and sister-in-law are building me a coop for my birthday) Come on, what is better than fresh eggs with yolks the color of Navel oranges? Secondly I am working on plans for my vegetable garden to be planted this spring. I will be starting out small as baby number two is coming in May. Finally, I have been successfully keeping a coffee plant alive for two months (and counting). Now would be a good time to start calling me Farmer Ashley.

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5. In high school I was voted most likely to win a Grammy. I’m sorry to disappoint my alma mater but I don’t think that’s going to happen. ☺

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Thanks to Aran for thinking of me.

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Gabe, Baron and I along with my parents are enjoying a relaxing week on the beach of Mission Bay. I think of it as a sort of last hurrah before baby #2 arrives. Not to say that when he comes our lives are over, but rather life will become all the more hectic. Packing our already over-the-required-weight-limit bags and hopping on a plane is about to become a bit more of a chore. So we are relishing this time we have to spend with each other, our first-born and our family in beautiful Southern California.

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In anticipation of this trip I of course set out to find the favored food finds of the locals. What makes San Diego unique from a food standpoint and where can I sample the best?
A couple things stood out among the extensive Internet research I did. First of all fish tacos are a must and the elusive California burrito, which is made up of carne asada and French fries and is legendary around these parts. We have yet to cross these food finds off of our vacation checklist but rest assured that I will not leave this state without sampling a hefty burrito stuffed full of juicy, marinated steak and crisp, fresh from the fryer fries.

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The other must do item on my list, and I was very adamant about this one no matter how long the drive, was to visit a farm made famous for the beauty of its produce.
While working at Spago in Beverly Hills I can still remember the thrill and excitement the kitchen crew felt when produce was scheduled to arrive from this Southern California farm. The berries from this farm were minute in size but the flavor that inhabited your mouth with one bite was as big as the sun which gave them their sweetness.
Among the most memorable were the Frais du Bois. These wild strawberries are famous for their intense sweetness. Their little strawberry bodies contain an intense strawberry flavor that makes my favorite Washington berries bow down in admiration.

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These little berries held a position of honor. They were treated with the same amount of care and respect as our famous diners. The moment these beauties were hand delivered into our kitchen they were plucked from the crowded berry basket and laid out side-by-side on an impeccably clean and soft towel lined sheet tray. Each berry was inspected for mold so we could quickly remove any damaged fruit to ensure that it would not contaminate any of its delicious friends.

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During our time living in Los Angeles, Gabe and I had often talked about visiting this farm where these berries and other amazing produce originated. But my days were primarily spent working in the kitchen and later my days off were devoted to helping Sherry with her book she was then working on. So with great sadness we left our home in L.A. having never visited the produce Mecca.
Now you can better understand my pressing desire to make the pilgrimage to this highly respected birthplace of beautiful fruits and vegetables.
The farm itself was a scenic thirty-minute drive from our condo. With our GPS in hand we embarked on this journey not knowing what to expect except that this particular farm is not clearly marked. But as we drove around a bend in a beautiful country studded with prickly cactus and immaculate horse stables, I spotted rows and rows of varied goods. I recognized the humble stand from magazines and TV shows that have highlighted this farm.

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My mouth watered and my mind raced with endless dinner possibilities as I perused the variety of fresh from the earth vegetables. We were probably asked three times if we needed any help before I finally began to commit to exactly what was going to make the cut. I wanted to take everything home.
The carrots were stacked pristinely in hues of oranges, reds and deep purples and sat next to the diminutive beets of red and gold.
The vast array of greens screamed to be turned into a lightly dressed salad and the large in flavor but small in stature brussels sprouts were calling my name (they also told me that they wanted to braise in cream – and who can argue with that).
My knowledge of citrus varietals was humbled as I picked up what I thought to be the most amazingly scented lemon – imagine my surprise when I was told that the yellow as the sun fruit that I held in my hand was actually a lime, and the lemons that I sought were actually the color of oranges.

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Sadly the strawberries that I remember so fondly were small in numbers (literally, we bought the last three) but were still as tasty as I recall.
Three large bags full later we walked away from the farmstead eager to delve into this bounty.
I did very little to the vegetables as the artists who took the time, care and energy to create the perfect conditions to raise such gorgeous food had done the work for me. The carrots and beets were tossed in oil, salt and pepper and roasted until tender. The cauliflower was cut into quarter inch slices drizzled with oil, salted and roasted until crisp.

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In olive oil and butter the minute brussels sprouts were sautéed until caramelized then, obeying their wishes, braised in heavy cream until fork tender.
We picked up some red and green butter lettuce, arugula and mustard greens and gave them a quick toss in a shallot mustard vinaigrette. The salad was topped with grilled chicken and steak.
The three strawberries were devoured before we got into the car and finally the citrus has found it’s way into a tasty batch of rosemary lemonade which we have been enjoying as we are now back at the condo once again overlooking the bay and enjoying the time we have left of this sunny vacation.
My sincere appreciation and respect goes out to all of those who take great pride in their life’s work to grow and produce food the way in which God intended us to enjoy it. I hope that through my cooking, baking and tools such as this blog I can encourage others to care enough about what they eat to value the work and dedication of those who have devoted their lives to gifting us with such bounty.


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Shallot Mustard Vinaigrette
1 tsp good quality mustard
3 tsp minced shallot
½ tsp honey
2 Tbl White Balsamic Vinegar
2/3 c Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Add the first four ingredients then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking. Add salt and pepper to taste. You may also add a squeeze of Meyer lemon if desired.

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On a quest for a little adventure my sister-in-law and I decided to drive to the orginal Cascadian Farms. We went out in search of the last blueberries of the season. So with her two kids and my one we piled into her car and set out with very vague directions. Turns out it was more of an adventure than we bargained for. Thinking it was just a couple miles off of the freeway we quickly realized it was further than we thought. 40 miles later we arrived. Cascadian farms is set below the magnificent Cascade mountains and across the street a river flows. We set out to pick our berries but they had just picked the last crop. With three kids we would have only had the chance to pick 1/2 a pint anyway. So instead we enjoyed homemade blueberry ice cream and bought 4 lbs of frozen berries.

An adventure was had and we walked away with bellies full of delicious ice cream and blueberries waiting to be baked into something wonderful.

First of probably quite a few blueberry recipes.

Blueberry Muffins with Cinnamon Crisp Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sift dries. Set aside. Combine wet ingredients. Toss blueberries in dry ingredients then gently stir in the wet.

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Topping: Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add butter. With your hands break up the butter clumps and blend until pea size clumps form.

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Fill muffin pan 3/4 way full and sprinkle with topping. Bake 350* 15 min for mini muffins 25 min for larger size.

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NOTE: I followed this recipe word for word!!! (Wonder why this is such an accomplishment? Click Here) But there are changes I would make and will try soon. First I would use brown sugar instead of white for more moisture and flavor. I would add a touch of orange zest for more depth of flavor. Then I would use either buttermilk or sour cream instead of the milk. Changing that then I may have to experiement with adding some baking soda to balance out of the acidity of the buttermilk or sour cream. Also I would decrease the sugar in the topping and make it slightly more like a crumble rather than a sugary, crispy topping.

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…what Baron was doing while the muffins were in the oven.

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